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I have a phone interview coming up for a job I'd really love to get. What's the best way for me to ace it?

The biggest mistake most people make before a phone interview is not preparing just as thoroughly as they would if the interview were in person. Phone interviews don’t allow for the benefit of face time and therefore require focused effort to make a positive impression. Here’s what I suggest:

Dress to Impress
The interviewer may not be able to see you, but you will act and sound more confident in a suit and wing tips than you would in a bathrobe.

Get in the Zone
Position yourself in a space that’s comfortable, private and free of distractions. Use a landline instead of a cell phone to ensure a better connection and to avoid dropping the call.

Clear Your Throat

Shortly before the interview, call a friend and talk about something fun, like last night’s game or what you’re doing this weekend. It will get you into conversation mode and test your phone connection -- as well your environment -- to make sure they’re conducive to an interview.

Make Notes to Self

Have a cheat sheet and pen ready. Your cheat sheet should include main points you want to make about yourself, as well as questions you have about the job.

Stay Hydrated
Keep a glass of room-temperature water nearby. Avoid caffeine, sugar and dairy, as they can strain your vocal chords and affect the sound quality of your voice.

Stand and Deliver
Your voice will project more powerfully if you’re standing. And don’t forget to smile while you talk. Again, your interviewer can’t see you, but your positive energy will come through loud and clear.

After the interview, and within 24 hours, send a heartfelt thank-you note via email. A handwritten version dropped in the mail will also help you stand out. I always tell my clients to go even further by including with the thank-you a relevant article, white paper or news of an upcoming conference that the interviewer might find interesting (and that is ideally related to what you discussed about the job). This way, you’re able to act as if you’re already hired.

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Maggie Mistal
Maggie Mistal was dubbed “one of the nation’s best-known career coaches” by CNN. She is a certified life-purpose and career coach and the host of “Making a Living With Maggie” on Martha Stewart Living Radio/SiriusXM. Her passion is her career consulting practice, through which she works with people of all levels and backgrounds to help them find their ideal careers.

Every year, I make the same resolution about getting in shape. And every year, I get bored by the end of January and start slacking off. How can I make a workout regime interesting enough to stick with?

In my experience, new year’s resolutions last anywhere from four to six weeks. Often, it’s because the goal isn’t realistic. You can’t go from 0 to 60 overnight and maintain it for any length of time; in fact, it will eventually turn you off to exercising. If you currently don’t work out, make your goal three sessions a week, or simply do something active every day (like taking the stairs or parking farther from your office). If you’re already working out but want to turn up the intensity, doubling your time in the gym is a solid goal. You can always double it again the next month, exponentially increasing the intensity.

A lack of creativity is another reason resolutions tend to fade away. Personal trainers bring motivation, guidance, intensity and -- above all else -- fun. You aren’t going to exercise for any length of time if you don’t enjoy it. If you don’t have the pocket change to pay for a personal trainer, taking a class is a cheaper way to get the same benefits.

Finally, if you do the same workout again and again, your body will build up resistance. So not only will the workout be less challenging, causing you to lose interest, but you’ll benefit less too. Keep the body guessing by doing push/pull and upper body/lower body splits: Work on your lower body (glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves) one day, then work on your upper body (chest, back, triceps, biceps, shoulders) the next day. Push movements include triceps, shoulders and the chest, while pull includes biceps and the back. Another way to stem the boredom is to do all machines one month, work with free weights the next month and focus on cables the following month. -- As told to Caroline Kinneberg

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Joshua Margolis
Joshua Margolis is a personal trainer and founder of New York City–based personal training service Mind Over Matter Health & Fitness.

My colleagues socialize a lot outside of work. Am I obligated to join them? I'd much rather see my non-work friends after hours.

Life would be a lot simpler if we could leave thoughts of work -- and that annoying guy in accounting -- behind when we vacate the office for the day. Given that our jobs often encroach on our leisure time, I don’t blame you for not feeling the urge to buy rounds for your department-mates at happy hour.

That being said, I think your question can be answered in one of two ways:

1)    Are you obligated to? Well, no. That is, as long as you’re okay with being perceived as a lone wolf who couldn’t care less about his colleagues, let alone his own career advancement.

2)    Should you? You bet your bottom dollar. Particularly if you’re interested in forging relationships and being viewed as an asset to the company rather than as a self-important snob.

If the first answer sounds like you, feel free to stop reading and go back to Web surfing. However, if you grudgingly appreciate that quality social time with work colleagues can give you a leg up, you most likely have a follow-up question: “What’s the minimum amount of face time I have to dedicate?”

For starters, make sure you’re at any function where the entire staff will be in attendance, and your absence would be glaring. This includes the holiday party, the company picnic and off-site team-building events. You should also show up for special occasions such as an after-work toast celebrating the award your company just won or a party in honor of someone who’s retiring.

Here are a few tips to bear in mind at such occasions:

Don’t:

  • Drink to excess.
  • Talk exclusively of work. Instead, seek out alternate common ground; you might be surprised.
  • Raise controversial topics.
  • Feel obligated to stay until the bitter end.

Do:

  • Arrive on time.
  • Mingle.
  • Be seen by your boss.
  • Have a short conversation with all of the powers-that-be.

Will any of this mean you’ll be re-tweeting your cube-mates’ Tweets, celebrating each of their birthdays and inviting them to your annual Super Bowl party? Probably not. Indeed, there is definite value in preserving the perception that you do, in fact, have a life beyond work.

But once you do start acting a bit more social with the work crew, I think you’ll find that the career benefits can be very real. Heck, you might even start liking your colleagues. Even that guy in accounting.

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Thomas P. Farley
Nice guy Thomas P. Farley is the creator of the blog What Manners Most, the nightlife correspondent for “Citybuzz” (seen on JetBlue and Continental Airlines flights nationwide) and the host of the Web television show “New York Insider TV.” He is a regular feature writer for Men’s Life Today, and you can follow him @mistermanners and @newyorkinsider.

I've noticed a resurgence of bow-tie wearing among guys my age. Should I get one? If so, when am I supposed to wear it?

The look has definitely been trending the past few years, but you have to be in the right mood. In the same way that a woman has to be ready to wear a red dress, you’ve got to be ready to wear a bow tie. Because people will notice; they will look at you.

Basically, I think there are two ways to wear a bow tie: for a really dressy look and for a fun, casual one. Are you hosting a holiday party? Going to an event where you’ll be in a tuxedo? A bow tie works in either case. I also like a bow tie with a more casual look, such as the collegiate, prep-school style. You could pair one with a blue denim shirt and corduroy blazer, moleskin pants and lace-up boots, but I wouldn’t wear one to a job interview -- it makes too big of a statement.

As for the kind of tie to buy, I prefer them a bit on the large side. Textured ties are great and will layer well with the rest of your outfit; try one in cashmere or wool rather than shiny silk. If you’re just starting out with bow ties in your wardrobe, consider matching the color with your favorite shirt or suit jacket. The resulting monochromatic look can be very elegant, and it’s not so “Bam! Here I come with my tie!”

There are plenty of videos on YouTube that will show you how to tie a bowtie correctly. You can also buy a pre-tied one (just not a clip-on, please). If you tie your own, chances are it won’t stay perfectly straight. But that’s OK; just go with it. -- As told to Thomas Farley

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Joe Lupo
Joe Lupo is the co-owner and lead stylist of Visual Therapy, a New York City–based personal styling and lifestyle company. Part of two-man “style SWAT team” widely covered in such publications as Vanity Fair, The New York Times, InStyle and Elle, he’s co-authored three books, including the most recent, Work It! Visual Therapy’s Guide to Your Ultimate Career Wardrobe.

I always end up getting ingrown hairs and irritation when I shave my neck. Is there a trick to comfortably shaving this area?

The skin and hair under your chin deserves extra attention when you shave, because it’s different from the skin and hair on your face.

First off, the skin on your neck is thinner than the skin on your face, so it may be more prone to irritation. When you shave, use light strokes so you don’t put too much pressure on your neck. It’s also a good idea to wash your neck with warm water before shaving. The water not only removes dirt, but also softens up the bristles so they can be cut more easily by the razor. Once you finish shaving, don’t forget to moisturize; it will replenish your skin’s natural fats and water levels after they’ve been diminished by the washing and shaving processes.

Unlike the hair on your face, the hair on your neck tends to grow in several different directions. This can pose a challenge to shavers, and it can lead to irritation and ingrown hairs. Do your best to shave in the direction of hair growth. For me, this means starting at the jaw line and shaving downward. If you see a swirl of hair growing in different directions somewhere on your neck, do your best to follow the growth patterns. Shave lightly when you get to those areas and be mindful that shaving against the grain may give you a closer shave, but it can also lead to more irritation later.

Lastly, what should you do when you find ingrown hairs in your beard? If you can, gently lift the hair from the skin’s surface using a clean needle. Make sure, of course, that your skin is clean as well! Plucking the hair out may lead to more problems, so don’t remove the hair completely. Once the edge of the hair has been cleared from the skin, you can go ahead and shave as usual. -- Reviewed by Craig the Barber, a skin- and hair-care expert who specializes in men of all ethnicities, and the editor in chief of the grooming blog TheMensRoom.com.

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Dr. Josh Zeichner

Dr. Josh Zeichner is a certified dermatologist and the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Antiperspirant makes my armpits break out, but I've tried going without it and -- believe me -- that's not an option. What can I do?

Breakouts after the use of an antiperspirant can be evidence of allergic contact dermatitis, an immune reaction that is sometimes triggered by exposure to deodorant preservatives. Rock salt crystals are one easy alternative to traditional antiperspirant, and they carry the lowest potential for allergy. If you’ve tried a hypoallergenic solution and sweating is still persistent, dermatologists have prescription-strength antiperspirants they can prescribe.

An even more effective solution is to inject tiny amounts of botulinum toxin (Botox) into small muscle fibers surrounding sweat glands in the armpit. These apocrine glands are responsible for a lot of sweat and harbor a ton of bacteria. The procedure need only be performed about twice a year and it goes a long way in reducing pit stains and embarrassment. It takes all of 10 minutes, barely hurts with the topical anesthetic applied beforehand, and -- best of all -- most insurance companies will cover it. -- As told to Thomas Farley

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Dr. Bobby Buka

Dr. Bobby Buka, a dermatologist with expertise in vascular lasers, skin cancer and acne, among other areas, is a section chief at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and the creator of SpotCheck, a new mobile app for remote monitoring of moles. He speaks at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology on topics ranging from complex eczema to techniques in dermatologic surgery.

I had a flat tire last weekend. I tried to be a man and change the tire myself. It didn't go so well. I couldn't figure out how to best jack up the car -- it was almost mission impossible just to pry the jack out of the trunk! -- and a couple of the lug nuts were too tight to loosen. Is roadside assistance the only answer?

Changing a tire really isn’t too tough. The first consideration is stopping the vehicle in a safe place. Drive slowly with emergency blinkers on until you find such a place -- a solid, level area far enough off the roadside so traffic isn't a major threat. (Beware of soft, grassy areas and inclines.) Under a bridge on an interstate may be a good location because of the concrete surface and wide shoulder area.

Next, keeping the blinkers on, pop the hood up, put the emergency brake on, switch the transmission to park (to first gear if car is a manual) and turn off ignition. If you have emergency triangles, put them out approximately 50 to 75 feet apart.

Next, take out your most important tool, the owners manual, and look at the section on changing your vehicle's tire. The manual will tell you how to remove the jack and spare tire -- which should be properly inflated -- and where to place the jack under the vehicle. Before jacking up the car, loosen the lug nuts with a lug wrench. (If they’re too tight and you can't do it, seek emergency road service, because using too much torque with the wrench can snap the lug nut or strip its threads.)

Put the jack under the vehicle as instructed in the manual. Jack the car up, take out the loosened lug nuts, remove the tire and replace it with the spare, tighten the lug nuts firmly but not tightly, then lower the vehicle back onto the ground. Remove the jack and tighten each nut, targeting the ones opposite each other, not in circular rotation.

Once you’re outta there, replace that spare with a real tire as soon as you can. And finally, first chance you get, have your tires and alignment checked and place another spare in the trunk.

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Tom Crosby is a vice president at AAA Carolinas Motor Club, which serves 1.6 million members.

Is there anything I can do to make my mind sharper, faster? My gray matter appears to be working fine, but I want to be even faster on my feet. Any exercises I can do to get the mental edge?

Absolutely. You can improve your mind’s capacity -- to a degree -- through mental exercise.

We’ve done a lot of studies on memory training and memory performance. The brain is like a muscle in a sense that you can build better efficiency and better accuracy through working out. The key is to make the exercises fun and engaging. It’s been proven, for instance, that surgeons who play video games make fewer errors in the operating room because of the mental activity.

But before you pick up a game console, consider the many new technologies and programs specifically designed to sharpen your brain. Try the simple memory games on the Radica Brain Games hand-held system; on the higher end, there’s also the Brain Fitness System by Dakim.

Like in sports, it’s important to cross-train and not strain. Maybe do crosswords one day and a Sudoku puzzle the next. The other key to keeping your brain healthy is eating habits: A heart-healthy diet is also a brain-healthy diet. Minimize fats from red meats, and reduce fast foods and processed foods.

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Dr. Gary Small

Dr. Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, is the director of the Memory and Aging Research Center at UCLA.

Does stretching really help prevent athletic injuries?

Common sense says stretching should prepare the body for exertion and prevent injuries. But the evidence is inconclusive. Compared with Australian army recruits who didn’t stretch during training, those who did suffered the same rate of injury.

But among Pennsylvania high school football players, stretching prevented injuries. And even though stretching didn’t reduce injuries in Alabama firefighters, it reduced the severity. Total medical and absence costs were three times greater in the control group -- $235,131 vs. $85,372 among those who stretched.

Even if stretching doesn’t prevent injuries, it does improve range of motion -- which is why the Arthritis Foundation recommends it. And in one Indian study, three months of yoga one hour a day reduced men’s blood pressure, cholesterol and stress, resulting in “improvement in subjective well-being and quality of life.”

Finally, if you stretch in a yoga or Pilates class, women usually outnumber men, so you’ll be well-positioned to find a lady. Just don’t expect stretching to magically immunize you against all injuries. That would be a stretch.

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Michael Castleman
Michael Castleman, author of Before You Call the Doctor: Safe, Effective Self-Care for More Than 300 Common Medical Problems, has been called “one of the nation’s leading health writers” (Library Journal).

I am an awesome video game player. I think I’m ready to take it to the big leagues. How do I get into the tournament circuit?

Find a way to save some money and travel to the big tournaments. Do whatever it takes. Get there and win against the best.

After you prove yourself, sponsors become a possibility. I played competitively for about four years in my genre of gaming (first-person shooters) before ever making a dime from it -- I mostly got free stuff for my accomplishments. To make money, you need to compete at the biggest tournaments and find sponsors through your success and popularity.

But keep in mind: There’s a big time commitment. I train about eight hours a day in combat for world championships. When you reach the point that you don't want to do it anymore, you have to keep doing it.

Once you’re an established pro, consider creating your own business. As I did with Fatal1ty, you may be able to create a marketable brand once you've made an impact on the tournament circuit. This could be your next move after pro gaming or possibly your big move and profit-maker that sustains your pro gaming career.

Game on …

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Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel
Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel is a professional video game player and founder of Fatal1ty Inc., a gaming gear company. Wendel has won over $500,000 in cash and prizes from his game play in the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) and other events

I saw a movie on Blu-ray for the first time at a friend's house and I was surprised by how much better it looked than DVD. Prices on players now start at around $300. Should I jump into the format?

While $300 is relatively affordable, it’s still quadruple the price of a decent standard-def DVD player. Blu-ray is definitely worth this higher cost if you have the right TV setup. If you don’t, you may not notice the spike in quality.

To appreciate the high-definition images, you need an HDTV with at least a 42-inch screen -- and you’ll really see the benefit if your TV’s 50 inches or larger. But you won’t see any improvement if you hook your Blu-ray player up wrong, so make sure to use a component-video, or preferably, an HDMI connection (don’t even think about using those yellow composite cables).

One advantage of Blu-ray -- and high-def in general -- is that you can sit closer to the screen than you could with older, analog TVs -- at least when you’re watching stuff in high-def. Sitting at a distance about twice the screen size will do the trick (example: a bit more than eight feet from a 50-inch TV).

For surround sound, you’ll want an A/V receiver than can either accept or decode Dolby TrueHD, which will give you way better sound than the Dolby Digital from DVD.

So, to sum up: If you have good TV and sound system, Blu-ray can blow DVD away.


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Expert Mike Gaughn is the deputy editor of the home entertainment gear magazine Sound & Vision

I get along really well with women, but I'm not interested in dating all of them. How do I remain friendly with the fairer sex without giving them the wrong idea?

Piece o’ cake.

When first meeting a cool chick you’d love to have a sister-type relationship with, immediately mention the girl you are dating or your current crush. Later, talk about your favorite “type” of girl and describe someone very different from her -- add to the effect by shrugging your shoulders and looking slightly baffled as to why you’re only attracted to blondes/Asian girls/girls with large derrieres. To hit the point home, ask if you can set her up with a distant friend (regardless of whether you do it or not).

If the conversation gets the least bit flirtatious, change the subject or momentarily move away. Girls are very attuned to subtle hints and body language.

Finally, when you meet a guy she’s dating, repeat how much you like him and invite them out with you from time to time.

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Dr. Belisa Vranich

Dr. Belisa Vranich is a clinical psychologist, author and public speaker specialising in relationships and sex. She is also a member of the Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute and a sexpert at GoodInBed.com.

I'm graduating from college next year and would love to work abroad for a year or two before I settle down into a career here. How do I find (and land) a job in another country?

First off, get to know the work permit and visa requirements for any country you want to work in. Resist the temptation to book a ticket and head out with a plan to work under the table -- you don’t want any legal trouble. Instead, plan ahead and get with a program. Many organizations offer work and volunteer opportunities for new graduates. Not only do they provide in-country support, but it’s also an easy way to make friends.

Want to work in a local pub or customer service job? Check out BUNAC.org, an organization that provides access to work permits and local leads in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and France, as well as volunteer opportunities in Cambodia and South Africa.

Want to teach? Check out the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme (known as JET), a popular program seeking American students to teach English in Japan. France also has a popular English teaching assistant program, run by the French Ministry of Culture.

Want a job in your field? Your chances will improve if you have specific skills, like a background in engineering or fluency in a foreign language. Take a look at global companies that offer overseas rotations as part of their training programs. Idealist.org offers international job listings in the nonprofit and NGO sectors.

The career office and study abroad staff on your campus can help you with the application process. I also recommend doing an advanced search for past employees and program participants on LinkedIn. Send them an email expressing interest in learning about their experience. Ask for an informational interview and learn the best way to apply. Then go for it! -- As told to Caroline Kinneberg

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Chandlee Bryan
Chandlee Bryan has a master’s in education and is a career coach and resume writer at Best Fit Forward. A former recruiter and career services advisor for Ivy League schools, Bryan is the co-author of The Twitter Job Search Guide.

I get ingrown hairs. Should I be concerned about shaving my head?

Even if you are prone to ingrown hairs on your face, you shouldn’t be intimidated by shaving your head. First of all, head-shaving and face-shaving can be very different experiences. One reason is because the hair on your head -- as opposed to the hair on your face -- typically follows a more uniform growth pattern, making it easier to shave with the grain.

That being said, you can still approach your first head-shaving with caution by beginning with a small area that’s easy to cover up, such as the neckline. Prep the area in the same way you’d prep your face, and shave with the grain -- never against it. Follow up with a thorough rinse and an application of aftershave balm, and then wait it out. Any shaving irritation will be visible within two to three days.

If there isn’t a reaction, try again and shave a larger area, or even the entire head. But remember, no matter which part of the face, neck or head you shave, always stay with the grain.

For more tips on how to reduce the chance of ingrown hairs while shaving, check out “How to Avoid Razor Bumps."

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Craig the Barber
Craig the Barber is a licensed professional barber and men’s grooming expert, and a frequent contributor to Men’s Life Today. He owns the Los Angeles–based grooming service The Grooming Concierge, serves as a contributor to national magazines and television shows, and is the editor in chief of the daily blog The Men’s Room.

I'm a fairly smart man, but some of my friends really make me feel not so sharp. Why does this happen and what can I do to stay on my game when I'm around them?

A lot of this has to do with your own self-confidence issues. If you clam up around people you respect and are friendly with, it’s probably coming from a feeling that you’re not as smart or funny as they are. You’re giving them a power you feel you don’t have and are withdrawing into yourself -- even though you probably have a lot more to offer to the dynamic than you’re giving yourself credit for.

True, some people tend to be stronger personalities than others in group settings. But you need to ask yourself why you’re allowing yourself to be diminished. You can admire someone without being overpowered by them.

If someone has a particularly strong personality, there are strategies you can employ to make them take notice and respect your role in the group:

  • Remember your strengths.
  • Lead the conversation into areas you’re most knowledgeable about.
  • Ask questions (to prevent having to field all the answers).
  • Learn more about the topics you know these strong personalities are interested in and blow them away with all that knowledge.

Then, and probably most important, relax. You are who you are! Be comfortable with that and others will be too.

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JoAnn Magdoff, Ph.D, is a New York City-based psychotherapist who specializes in the individuation of late adolescents.

I've got some pretty decent muscle, but when it comes to my chest, I've got nothing in the upper pectoral area. How do I give myself some muscle cleavage?

You want cleavage? Watch an R-rated movie. On the other hand, if you want an impressive and powerful-looking chest, you’ve come to the right place.

First, let’s talk anatomy. The pec is divided into two parts: the clavicular head (the muscle fibers that connect at your collarbone) and the sternal head (the fibers merging at the sternum, or breastbone).

To build the upper part of the pecs, you want to do exercises that will really fire the clavicular head fibers. This is best done with movements performed on an incline bench.

Start with the incline dumbbell press: Holding two dumbbells, start with your arms extended, directly over your shoulders, palms facing forward. Lower slowly, keeping palms facing forward, and finish where elbows are at a 90-degree angle and forearms are perpendicular to the floor. At full extension, the dumbbells should be 4-6 inches apart. (Don’t bring them together at the top, by the way.)

Next: incline flyes with dumbbells. Your starting position is the same -- arms extended with dumbbells over shoulders -- except on this movement, the palms face each other. Begin by slowly lowering the dumbbells until they’re level with your chest, elbows slightly bent. Then squeeze the pecs, extending, or raising, your arms as if you’re attempting to hug a big tree. Finish back at your starting point, arms extended, with the dumbbells about 10 inches apart. Keep hands stationary and facing each other throughout the movement.

Finally, this upper-pec finisher: a decline push-up. Start in push-up position, with your feet elevated on a flat bench, then slowly lower.

Do three to four sets, of eight to 12 reps each, of these exercises two to three times a week, and you’ll start seeing a bigger sweep in your upper chest. While you may not have cleavage, your progress will be impressive enough to get you a closer look at someone else’s. And we don’t mean that of your training partner.

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Certified strength and conditioning specialist Dave Dunlap has been a personal trainer at ClubSport of Pleasanton, Calif., for 20 years. A sprinter and decathlete at the University of California, Santa Barbara, he was a finalist for the prestigious IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year award in 2001.

I've never given a speech before in my life -- and now I have to for work. How do I get through it?

Rehearse your speech out loud. Do that as many times as needed to be confident that you know it really well. When the day arrives, don’t read your speech to the audience, but do refer to it. Print it in oversize type and highlight key phrases or the first sentence of each paragraph.

Being nervous isn't a bad thing: Extra adrenaline and endorphins will actually improve your ability to focus. Assume the physical posture of confidence and your mind will follow. Picture giving the speech successfully from start to finish. And while you’re at it, go ahead and imagine yourself receiving a standing ovation.


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Linda Pogue
Linda Pogue is a public-speaking coach who’s been helping media professionals perfect their podium techniques for nearly two decades.

My best friend is a girl. I’m in love with her, and it’s killing me. If I tell her, I risk losing the friendship. If I don’t, I risk losing out on an amazing relationship. What should I do?

First of all, this is a very common scenario, so don’t feel funny about it. And if it is eating away at you as much as you say it is, you’ve got to put it out there -- as much for the actual answer as for your own sanity. The fact is the relationship dynamic is already being affected now that you have these feelings. I think your bigger regret would come from not finding out where it can go.

One of the best ways for you to set this in motion is to create an opportunity. If you normally just hang out, plan a get-together that’s a little more romantic. Take her to dinner at a restaurant with nice lighting or go ice skating and follow it up by a cup of hot chocolate. When you’re with her, be flirtatious. Share compliments that she’s not used to hearing from you (but make sure they’re genuine, otherwise they’ll come off as cheesy). Through all of this, try to suss her out. Does she seem receptive? Uncomfortable? Oblivious? If you can’t get a read, you might want to have “the talk” by sending her an email. Putting your feelings in writing will allow her to digest and consider them without feeling the pressure of an in-person chat. Another option is to ask a trusted mutual friend to act as an intermediary.

Whatever you do, make sure you act with confidence. If you’re skittish, she’s going to become uncomfortable too. You can’t be too subtle or she’ll miss your intentions entirely. Just don’t show up with a dozen roses and a stretch limo -- which will definitely leave her wondering, “Now where did that come from?!”

The best relationships are built on solid friendships. I'm a big believer that if both people in a friendship are available and attracted, transitioning their friendship to a romantic relationship is a wonderful idea. Remember that to find love, you have to take a few risks along the way.

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Andrea Syrtash

Andrea Syrtash is a relationship expert and the author of He’s Just Not Your Type (And That’s a Good Thing). More of her insights, and episodes of her show “On Dating,” can be found on her website, AndreaSyrtash.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AndreaSyrtash.

I've got a little extra cash coming in after college: My dad is giving me $10,000 to start my portfolio. What's the best way to invest it so I can get the greatest return in this treacherous economy?

There will be a day when risk is prudent and stocks will be the play. Even though the stock market may be on the upswing (at press time), there still may be economic bumps ahead, so saving a big portion of your investable money is wise -- and it will show your Dad that you know what's going on in the national and global economies.

One of the biggest risks to your money is inflation, so take 20 percent of it to a reputable coin dealer -- you can find one at the Kitco Web site -- and buy U.S.-minted gold Eagle coins. Since gold is a hedge against inflation, owning gold is a smart investment. If inflation strikes, your gold will increase in value -- your portfolio will not be adversely affected by higher prices and falling equities.

Keep the rest of your cash in a “CD” or Certificate of Deposit. CDs offer higher returns than the standard, vanilla savings account, and since they’re FDIC insured, you won’t lose your money -- even if things turn south in the economy or the bank. You can find a high yielding, FDIC-insured and liquid CD at the Bankrate Web site.

After you’re finished doing all this work, take a minute and pat yourself on the back. In fact, pull up a chair, pour yourself a beverage and turn on “Happy Hour.”

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About the Expert

Eric Bolling is a financial analyst, co-host of FOX Business Network’s “Happy Hour” and the host of the 3 p.m. hour of FOXNews.com’s “Strategy Room” Web show.

How often should I change a razor blade? And is there anything else I need to know about keeping a razor in prime shape for a great shave?

Changing a razor blade after five to seven uses is the average, based on what I hear from customers and my own experience. But it all depends on the hair on your face. The coarser or denser it is, the harder the blades are going to have to work. The blade is supposed to feel extremely smooth on your face, especially when you shave with the grain. So as soon as you’re shaving with the grain and the blade starts to pull, that’s the razor’s way of telling you, “Hey, man, change my blade right now.” Some razors even have an indicator strip that fades with use, an additional sign that it might be time to pop in a new blade.

To make blades last longer, it’s key to clean them when you’re done shaving. It’s easy for hair and shaving product to get caught between the blades -- if those things dry up in there, the blade is not going to work as well. That’s how you get micro-cuts and razor burn.

Also, your best friend is hot water. Use it to rinse out the hair and foam -- tapping the razor against the sink a little will help. When you’re done, put your razor on a dry surface or a stand where it can air dry, because if it’s resting on a wet sink, the blade will oxidize and become dull.


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Martial Vivot
Expert Martial Vivot, world-renowned men’s hair stylist, is the proprietor of Manhattan’s Martial Vivot Salon Pour Hommes, named Best Men’s Salon for 2009 by New York Magazine.

My nipples are feeling sensitive. I'm a guy! Is this weird?

No worries. This is totally normal, for men and women alike.

The easiest way to explain it is that we were all similar little blobs of fetal tissue before genetics and hormones (estrogen and testosterone) kicked in to enable lactation in some (females) and not in others (males). Your nipples are feeling sensitive because there are tons of nerve endings on them. Range of sensitivity can go from none to extremely sensitive -- in both good and bad ways. It’s purely the luck of the draw -- it doesn’t have to do with size of the areola or anything like that.

For men, nipple action can be a huge turn-on, excruciatingly annoying or as dull as getting your elbow licked. Don’t use telepathy in trying to get women to know this about you. And use words, which are much more effective than convulsing in agony when a girl breaks out a move she learned from her last pro-nipple boyfriend.


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Dr. Belisa Vranich

Dr. Belisa Vranich is a clinical psychologist, author and public speaker specialising in relationships and sex. She is also a member of the Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute and a sexpert at GoodInBed.com.

I'm a smoker, which is a huge turnoff to a lot of girls. I'm going to quit on my birthday in September but want all the help I can get. What's the latest research?

Well, first of all, congrats! Your choice will expand your dating pool to include nonsmoking babes while drastically lowering your chances of getting lung cancer. Respect.

As for the how-to, the No. 1 rule: Don’t go cold turkey. The likelihood of failure is too high.

Here are some techniques to help you wean yourself off cigarettes for good. I recommend using them all -- the more weapons in your artillery, the better your chances for winning the battle.

  • Nicotine patches They look like square opaque adhesive bandages and send nicotine into your blood through the skin. Now you just have to deal with what to do with your hands and mouth.
  • Zyban This oral medication kills cravings with one awkward side effect: It can make you a bit hornier than usual.
  • Acupuncture Tiny needles go all around your ear. This treatment is so popular, even hospitals and clinics perform it for all kinds of addictions. It’s worked in Chinese medicine for thousands of years, and it can work for you.
  • Deep breathing Learning how to breathe -- and not just in an involuntary reflex kind of way -- can produce a calm similar to smoking, which forces you to think about taking deep breaths (something we rarely do during the course of the day).
  • Tea tree oil toothpicks Munching on these little sticks can satisfy that oral fixation and give you something to do with yourself now that you aren’t holding a butt.

Finally, stay away from smoking friends and activities as much as possible, and don’t be shy about reaching out for support. For more help, call 877-YES-QUIT.


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About the Expert

Dr. Belisa Vranich

Dr. Belisa Vranich is a clinical psychologist, author and public speaker specialising in relationships and sex. She is also a member of the Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute and a sexpert at GoodInBed.com.

Lately, my girlfriend's been complaining that I don't call her enough. But I text message her all day long. Is she onto something? Or should I send her a final "c u l8r"?

Though texting has its time and place (such as the pithy heads-up that you’re running five minutes late), it should be viewed as a supplement to -- not a replacement for -- live communication. No matter how fast and furious you are on your keypad, it’s only natural that your sweetie pie longs to hear your voice. Show her you’re way smarter than your cell’s T9 prediction and practice picking up your phone rather than just pecking at it.


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Thomas P. Farley
Nice guy Thomas P. Farley is the creator of the blog What Manners Most, the nightlife correspondent for “Citybuzz” (seen on JetBlue and Continental Airlines flights nationwide) and the host of the Web television show “New York Insider TV.” He is a regular feature writer for Men’s Life Today, and you can follow him @mistermanners and @newyorkinsider.

My 10-year-old car needs about $1,000 in repairs, which is about what the car is worth in running condition. If I get it fixed, am I throwing good money after bad? If I don't fix it, will I be able to sell it?

Let’s say the engine is the problem. Even if you repair or replace it, what other problems might you have coming down the road? Are your brakes about to go? What about your tires? Do you have a cracked windshield? If the car is in great shape (other than having a worn-out engine), that’s one thing. But if you envision more problems to come, you should cut your losses.

My first move would be to try to get it fixed for less than $1,000. Have a friend who’s mechanically inclined try to diagnose the problem. This will save some time and money, and enable you to cut to the chase when getting repair estimates. Once you know what the issue is, call three different garages, making sure they’re certified by the National Institute for Automotive Excellence (ASE). I also recommend asking the whichever garage you choose to use refurbished parts rather than new ones.

If you can’t negotiate a repair price below the car’s book value, there are still a few options. Forgo the service and see if the mechanic wants to buy the car as is, or knows someone who might be interested. Another route is placing an ad on Craigslist or eBay. You’d be surprised … you just may find someone who has your make and model and needs parts.

All in all, the more wear-and-tear and mileage the car has, the more you should question whether you want to put in big money to repair it. A car with 300,000 miles? If it’s a ’66 Mustang, sure. If it’s a 1989 Delta 88, not so much. -- As told to Thomas Farley

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Lauren Fix
Lauren Fix, The Car Coach, is a nationally recognized automotive expert and analyst. She is the National Automotive Correspondent for Time Warner Cable, auto expert for “The Weather Channel” and “QVC,” a contributing editor to several car magazines and a regular guest on TV talk shows. Her most recent book is Lauren Fix’s Guide to Loving Your Car. She is also a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and an ASE-certified technician. This is her first contribution to Men’s Life Today.

I told my girlfriend I can get into shape using interactive video games. She's not buying it. Who's right? (Note: A Kinect or Nintendo Wii hangs on your answer.)

If you’re aiming for six-pack abs and giant guns, your girlfriend is right to be suspicious. However, for the average couch potato, it can be overwhelming to jump right into a vigorous fitness plan. Because interactive gaming does get you up and moving, it can be a stepping stone to a real workout.

I think part of the appeal is that these games have no intimidation factor. You don’t have to worry about feeling less fit than the person on the weight bench next to you. And the fun that comes from squaring off against the computer or even a friend (whether he’s in the room with you or connected to the game via the Internet) is going to be far greater than heading down to a damp basement and doing curls by yourself. Furthermore, for people who live far from a health club, interactive video games offer a practical solution for days when getting to the gym just isn’t gonna happen.

With all that said, there’s no substitute for pumping iron if you really want to get in shape. You’re not going to be held accountable by an avatar. Leaving the house to work out will bring you into contact with others who can encourage and inspire you to reach your fitness goals. And once you establish a routine, the endorphins you experience from all of that exercise will make you want to work out even more.

So yes, eventually, you’ll need to go to the gym if you want to get fit. But if the video game is going to help you get there, you have my vote. (And, I hope, your girlfriend’s too!) -- As told to Thomas Farley

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John Basedow
John Basedow is the creator of the best-selling “Fitness Made Simple” video series, the author of Fitness Made Simple: The Power to Change Your Body, The Power to Change Your Life, a frequent guest on FOX News Channel, a regular on the popular SiriusXM Radio’s “The Covino & Rich Show,” and the star of the YouTube Web series “John Basedow TV.”

I'm an African-American man and am considering shaving my head. What style of facial hair goes best with this look?

The possibilities are endless, and here’s why: Without hair on top, the face becomes the canvas. However, since your facial hairstyle will also now be the primary focal point, there are two things to always keep in mind:

1.    The fuller (or wider) the beard, the less balance the overall face will have.
Even with hair on top, full beards can expand to make the face seem disproportioned. When there isn’t any hair on top to serve as a balance, this tendency is even more pronounced. So one quick way to keep the fullness and create balance is to ask the barber to taper or fade the top of the sideburns, above the ear.

2.    The longer the beard, the longer the face may appear.
Popular goatee styles like the Vandyke and the full Vandyke can help create length in those who have weak chins or rounder faces. However, paired with an already strong chin or longer face, those styles can make the face seem even longer -- especially when there isn’t any hair on top.

So if you’re going with either of these styles, whatever your face shape, consider growing the hair no longer than 2 to 2 1/2 inches below the chin.

Watch Andre 3000 Benjamin talk about style, brought to you from our sponsor

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Craig the Barber
Craig the Barber is a licensed professional barber and men’s grooming expert, and a frequent contributor to Men’s Life Today. He owns the Los Angeles–based grooming service The Grooming Concierge, serves as a contributor to national magazines and television shows, and is the editor in chief of the daily blog The Men’s Room.

I dread the summer because I sweat so much. Is there anything I can do to sweat less?

The first step is to make sure you’re using an actual antiperspirant, not just a deodorant, which helps manage odor but does nothing to dry up sweat. If the soles of your feet or the palms of your hands tend to get sweaty, you can apply antiperspirant there as well as under your arms. (Just don’t stick your fingers in your mouth.) Buy antiperspirant that’s marked “clinical strength,” which generally contains more active ingredients than the regular stuff. Apply at bedtime to allow it to start working overnight. By the time morning rolls around, you’ll have full-strength protection.

Other than antiperspirant, seek out moisture-wicking fabrics for your undershirts. Brands like REI offer synthetic blends that help draw sweat away from your skin so moisture can evaporate faster. Also, avoid eating spicy foods and drinking hot beverages -- especially caffeinated ones, which raise your body temperature even more.

If none of these do the trick, see your dermatologist for more involved options. -- As told to Caroline Kinneberg

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Jessica Krant
Jessica Krant  is a board-certified dermatologist, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City and the founder of Art of Dermatology, a private practice in New York City. She tweets @TheSkinMD. She is a frequent contributor to Men’s Life Today.

I hear this year's Olympics will be broadcast in 3-D. Should I take the plunge and buy a 3-D TV?

From my perspective -- no pun intended -- 3-D TV is a parlor trick, not a paradigm shift. In an IMAX theater, which has the ideal conditions (namely a massive screen), 3-D can be fully immersive. In a home environment, there are just too many strikes against it. You can’t replicate that all-encompassing sensation when you’re on your side on the couch, frosty beverage in hand, watching a TV-sized screen. Furthermore, the 3-D glasses cause headaches for some people, and a small percentage of the population can’t even see the effect.

With that said, there are some features in the newer TVs that will significantly ramp up your two-dimensional viewing experience. First and foremost is a refresh rate of 240 Hz. A standard feature in most 3-D TVs, it comes in some non-3-D models as well. Compared to sets with refresh rates of 60 or 120 Hz, the faster rates greatly enhance the image you see on screen, particularly for the fast-paced action of sporting events.

Sound plays a crucial role in delivering the “you are there” effect too. So be sure you’ve got the ideal speaker setup for your environment. Depending on your space, that can be anything from a 3.1 system (three speakers and a subwoofer) to 9.1, but 5.1 will be the right choice for most homes and HD broadcasts. Just make sure you’ve got the speakers properly situated. Your expensive, high-powered sound blaster can throw around a ton of watts, but it’s all for naught unless you’ve got your speakers in the correct spots. -- As told to Thomas P. Farley

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Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the author of Television Disrupted: The Transition from Network to Networked TV and Overcoming The Digital Divide: How to use Social Media and Digital Tools to Reinvent Yourself and Your Career. Palmer is also host of Fox Television’s monthly show “Shelly Palmer Digital Living and United Stations Radio Network’s Shelly Palmer Digital Living Daily,” a daily syndicated radio report that features commentary on the biggest stories in technology, media and entertainment.

A friend told me you should start using anti-wrinkle cream years before you see any wrinkles. Is that true?

It’s true to an extent. Anti-aging cream is for reducing visible wrinkles, so a good rule of thumb is to start using it when you see your first few early lines. The most important antiwrinkle cream to start using long before you see any lines, though, is sunscreen. Every single day. If you get a sunburn, the long-term damage won’t even show on your skin until 10 or 20 years later, when it’s too late to completely reverse it. So prevention always comes first.

If you want to get more aggressive about wrinkle reversal now, start applying sunscreen in the morning and an antiwrinkle cream at bedtime. Pick an over-the-counter cream that contains the vitamin A derivative retinol, the milder cousin of tretinoin, which is the only FDA-proven cream to improve wrinkles. Other ingredients that might help include antioxidants like green tea, vitamins C and E, and soy.

Also, don’t get too hung up on the brand. Although there are more and more products marketed directly to men, the truth is that branding doesn’t make that much of a difference. Your best bet is to stick with generally reliable names, like Neutrogena or AVEENO. -- As told to Caroline Kinneberg

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About the Expert

Jessica Krant
Jessica Krant  is a board-certified dermatologist, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City and the founder of Art of Dermatology, a private practice in New York City. She tweets @TheSkinMD. She is a frequent contributor to Men’s Life Today.

I've always used disposables in the interest of cost savings. But my girlfriend says a cartridge razor is ultimately more economical. Is she right?

Girlfriend wins this one. Replacement cartridge razors are more economical (not to mention better for the environment). Here’s my math: Per unit, cartridges cost about 30 cents less than disposable razors. Assume that the average male shaves every other day (182 days per year) and that a razor blade, on average, is used for three shaves. That means he uses approximately 60 razors per year. In other words, he can save upwards of $18 a year by switching from disposables to cartridge replacements, which definitely makes up for the cost of the reusable razor (a starter pack with 2 cartridge razor blades costs about $8.50). The savings may not seem like a lot, but when you consider you’ll be shaving for many decades to come, switching to a reusable could potentially score you a sweet new audio system. -- As told to Caroline Kinneberg

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Andrea Woroch
Andrea Woroch is a consumer-savings advisor for Kinoli, Inc.

I’ve been using the same antiperspirant since baseball season began, and it’s worked. But recently, I’ve been sweating through my jersey. Is it possible to build up resistance to an antiperspirant?

Antiperspirants are made of aluminum salts that form plugs in your sweat glands to prevent sweat from coming out to the surface of the skin. While there’s no data-based evidence of true resistance to antiperspirant, the body is prewired to do what it needs to do to cool down. So theoretically, your body could build up a heightened tolerance to antiperspirant and respond by making more sweat.

If you feel like you’ve been sweating more -- or if you’ve always been a heavy sweater -- here are my suggestions:

  • First, try changing your application routine. Antiperspirant is most effective when it’s applied at a time when you aren’t sweating, like at night before bed. You can also try applying it in the morning and at night instead of just once per day.
  • If your regular antiperspirant still isn’t cutting it, switch to a clinical-strength antiperspirant, which will have a higher aluminum salt concentration. Try applying it once a day, ideally at night, or up to twice a day.

Still sweating? It may be time to see your dermatologist. He or she can prescribe you a prescription-strength antiperspirant or discuss alternatives for excessive sweating, such as BOTOX. -- As told to Elizabeth Narins

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Dr. Josh Zeichner

Dr. Josh Zeichner is a certified dermatologist and the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

I have a couple of spots of uneven growth in my beard. What's the best facial hairstyle for me?

The first style that comes to mind is the easy and always-popular beard scruff. It’s a great choice for the patchy beard crowd because you don’t really need to grow an even beard to achieve it. Plus, there are no rules as to how short or structured the style should be, so this look is open for interpretation.

Another style that comes to mind is for the guys who struggle to grow hair on their cheeks but have plenty along their necks and jawlines: the chin-strap. It’s a gutsy option, but if you have the face shape and the confidence to pull it off, it can be a great look.

Of course, goatee styles are also possibilities. I personally can’t grow enough hair to have a full goatee (or a full Vandyke), but the Vandyke works well for me.

Finally, don’t forget the simple mustache; it’s stylish and sophisticated. And the best part? We can all pull it off.

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Craig the Barber
Craig the Barber is a licensed professional barber and men’s grooming expert, and a frequent contributor to Men’s Life Today. He owns the Los Angeles–based grooming service The Grooming Concierge, serves as a contributor to national magazines and television shows, and is the editor in chief of the daily blog The Men’s Room.

My new boss is a golf fanatic, and I can tell I’m going to get roped into playing one of these days. How can I get my game up-to-speed fast?

The quickest way is to take lessons from a pro. Go to a local golf shop and ask for the name of the best teacher in town. Then go to another golf shop and pose the question again. If you hear the same name twice, you know the referral is a good one.

You can also ask around at a local country club or golf course. Prior to starting lessons, to help get yourself familiar with the game, you might consider purchasing an instructional DVD or book.

Expect to take at least seven lessons to build your knowledge. Cost-wise, you can anticipate $40 to $70 per lesson, with most sessions lasting from a half hour to an hour.

Whether from an instructor or an instruction video, the first thing you’ll learn is PGA (not Professional Golf Association, but Posture, Grip, Alignment). Then you’ll begin working on your swing. In between lessons, you’ll need to go out and practice what you’ve learned.

As a newbie, you should play on a nine-hole golf course rather than an 18-hole one. This will boost your confidence … and stave off possible embarrassment. If there happens to be a beginner course in your area, you can also consider playing there until you become comfortable enough with your ability to take on a regular course -- and your boss.

Once you’re on the greens with the big guy, follow good golf etiquette, which includes staying out of his peripheral vision when he tees off, and not crossing his line of putt. Since you’re just a beginner, the boss is most likely going to win. If you start to pull ahead, you might want to consider fudging some shots every now and again. Decide which game you want to win with your boss -- short-term or long-term -- but never forget to smile, and remember who signs your check.

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Dr. Barry Lotz
Dr. Barry Lotz is president of the Professional Golf Teachers Association of America and the author of several books, including The Right Mind for Golf: Overcoming Golf’s Mental Challenges and the Mastering of Your Mental Game and How to Build Business Relationships Through Golf: A Must Read for Men and Women. An active player of the sport for the past 15 years, Lotz says it took him about half a decade to get to a point where he was satisfied with his game; he currently has a handicap of 9.

I feel like daily showers dry out my skin. Is it unhygienic to take a shower every two or three days?

Daily showers are more of a cultural phenomenon than a medical necessity. And you’re correct in that excess exposure to water -- especially hot water in a shower -- can strip the skin of oil and lead to irritation. Although I recommend that people clean the face, armpits and groin area every day, full showers are not necessary. If you feel the need to take showers daily or more, you can skip the soap except in those special areas that need cleaning. Detergents in some soaps can cause skin irritation as well.

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Dr. Josh Zeichner

Dr. Josh Zeichner is a certified dermatologist and the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

My friend refuses to drink from restaurant glasses; he asks for a straw every time. Is he a germophobe, or should I be following suit?

First of all, I prefer the term “germ-conscious,” as “germophobe” has such negative connotations. A person who is germ-conscious may simply be trying to protect his own health. With the myriad drug-resistant bacteria in our environment, germ-conscious people are, in my opinion, levelheaded.

Choosing to use a straw in a restaurant is sensible, as it keeps you from ingesting any microbial contamination from the rim of the glass -- the most likely place to retain bacteria from another person’s mouth if the glass wasn’t washed thoroughly. While the health risks associated with such exposure are relatively low, if the person who used the glass before you happened to have an infectious disease, it is possible for it to be transmitted. Moreover, even if the glass was properly cleaned, the bare hand(s) of the bartender, busboy, waitress, etc., will have touched it at some time after it came out of the dishwasher. You can’t be certain that none of these people held it by the rim.

Using an individually wrapped straw is an easy way to avoid the small risk that could be associated with drinking from the rim of a dirty glass. Even if there are no individually wrapped straws available, using an unwrapped straw is probably safer than drinking directly from the glass. -- As told to Elizabeth Narins

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Anne LaGrange Loving

Anne LaGrange Loving is a microbiology technologist certified by the American Society for Clinical Pathology. She is also an assistant professor of science at the Passaic County Community College in Paterson, N.J. Loving co-authored a Journal of Environmental Health study that found 25 different microbial species on lemon slices placed on the rims of restaurant glasses or directly into beverages.

I'm on a serious budget. Is there anything I can do to make my razor blades last longer?

Nothing is more uncomfortable and potentially dangerous than using a dull razor. We have some key strategies to keep our blades sharp, safe and dependable for our customers. You can -- and should -- do the same for your own comfort and protection.

1. Keep your razor immersed in a cup of alcohol in between shaves to eliminate any traces of water. Oxidation/rust is the biggest enemy of a sharp razor blade. (If you don’t have alcohol available, you can blow on the blade to knock off any water droplets.)

2. Stroke the blade on the leg of a pair of blue jeans to sharpen it, just like a barber does with a straight-edge razor and a leather strap in this video. Lay the jeans leg on a table or ironing board. Stroke the head of the razor out and away from you for 10 strokes, and then pull the blade in the opposite direction for 10 strokes. As long as it’s flat against the denim, it shouldn’t damage your jeans.

3. Make sure your skin is fully wet and lathered to ensure less drag and friction while you’re shaving. It’s preferable to shave while taking a shower so the combination of steam and hot water soften your skin, making for less tension on not only your face, but also the blade. Making your blade’s job easier leads to less wear and tear.

4. Use longer strokes while shaving to preserve the blade’s surface. The more short strokes you take, the more quickly your blade will become dull.

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George Aminov and Arthur Arthur Iskhakov
George Aminov and Arthur Iskhakov are co-owners of Barber’s Blueprint, a popular luxury men’s salon in the trendy SoHo district of Manhattan.

I'd like to reduce my "friends" on Facebook to people I've actually talked to in the last few years. Is there any way to defriend without offending?

Something to bear in mind here is that ditching any friendship -- even one that exists primarily online -- can have hurtful consequences. So unless a swath of your Facebook friends have either turned stalker or are posting comments on your wall that leave you feeling embarrassed or angry, you might want to consider simply hiding their status updates from your news feed. Technically, you’re still “friends,” but you won’t be reminded of how annoying they are every time you read a post about the “scrumpdillyicious French toast” that Charlie from your Cub Scout days snarfed for breakfast.

But let’s say hiding these people from your feed is simply not enough; these lame friendships are doing nothing for you, and they’ve got to go. Unless you interact with any of these friends regularly on Facebook, they likely won’t realize for months -- if at all -- that you’re no longer friends. And by the time that happens, they may not care that much anyway. If any of them attempt to re-friend you, take it on a case-by-case basis, but don’t feel badly about ignoring a re-friend request. If someone really wants to be your friend, let him or her pick up the phone.

If you’re going to shed a mass of friends all at once, I would suggest posting a status update along these lines:

“Hey, guys. My Facebook friend list has gotten too huge for me to manage. Nothing personal here, but I’m going to start paring down. Going forward, best way to reach me -- especially if you need a quick answer -- will be email or cell.”

Chances are excellent that you’ll never hear a peep from your fringe acquaintances, in which case they’ll be off your radar for good. Mission accomplished!

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About the Expert

Thomas P. Farley
Nice guy Thomas P. Farley is the creator of the blog What Manners Most, the nightlife correspondent for “Citybuzz” (seen on JetBlue and Continental Airlines flights nationwide) and the host of the Web television show “New York Insider TV.” He is a regular feature writer for Men’s Life Today, and you can follow him @mistermanners and @newyorkinsider.

My best friend's girlfriend came on to me. I'm afraid that if I tell him, it'll backfire (he really digs this girl) and I'll lose the friendship. What do I do?

Because birds of a feather flock together, it’s not unusual for friends to share similar desirable traits. This may be part of the reason why your friend’s girlfriend is attracted to you as well. Your highest priority should be your best friend.

If she comes on to you once, tell her that an honorable man doesn’t mess with another man’s woman. If she comes on to you a second time, tell your friend. She has established a pattern of deceitful behavior, and he’s the one who could suffer from it. He needs to know what’s going on. If he’s really your best friend, he’ll be grateful. If not, and he blames you for her coming on to you, he may not be the man you thought he was. -- As told to Mike Hammer

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Amy Owens is a counselor, singles coach and matchmaker based in Indianapolis, Ind. She wrote The Itty Bitty Break-up Book: How to Pick up the Pieces After a Relationship Ends and also pens a weekly singles column. Both are available at TheSinglesCoach.com.

Can I use a regular beard trimmer to groom other parts of my body, or is that a no-no?

If you’re talking about an electric razor -- a small trimmer meant for lining up your facial fuzz -- the answer is no. Your chest has lots of hair, and an electric razor is not capable of taking down that much.

However, a hair clipper with guards will do the job. You can use it on your beard, your head, and your entire body. For its virgin voyage below the chin, make sure the No. 3 or No. 2 guard is locked in place. Also, your body has to be dry, since a clipper won’t mow down wet hair.

Once you’ve got some experience under your belt, feel free to take the clipper down to the No. 1 setting. And if you really want to appear just-shaved, remove the guard completely ... at your own risk. Although you’ll have to be careful not to tear yourself up, the great thing about using a clipper is you’ll never have to deal with ingrown hairs.

Last little tip: I’d recommend using a corded device so you don’t have to worry about the power running out. Keep it plugged in and you can trim yourself all the way down to your feet … if that’s the look you’re going for. -- As told to Caroline Kinneberg

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Garrett Pike
Garrett Pike trained in shaving under Martial Vivot. He now works as a barber for Vivot’s salon for men (MartialVivot.com) in New York City.

I recently came into an inheritance of $30,000. I wasn't planning to buy a house right now, but since mortgage rates are so low, would real estate be the smartest place to put my money?

In my opinion, it would not make sense to tie up that $30,000 in an illiquid asset like real estate -- especially if you might change jobs in a few years and need to move. Unless you’ve found a very good deal -- and yes, there are good deals to be had -- and you’re planning on staying put for seven years or more, the numbers just don’t make sense.

You might be thinking that your mortgage payments will be less than your rent would otherwise be. But you’ve got to examine the bid-ask spread. You don’t want to buy your place for more than you can sell it later. Mortgage rates are low, but if you have to move and sell, you can’t take that mortgage rate with you for your next purchase. And even if you achieve a 10-percent appreciation in your property’s valuation, you’ve got to look at how much you’ll pay in real estate commission fees and transfer taxes. Finally, even if the overall trend in real estate is upward, remember that homes can appreciate in some areas but not others.

So what should you do with that $30,000? I don’t like bonds -- interest rates are too low. Nor should you have to suffer the 0-percent interest that the banks are paying. With stocks, however, you can achieve enormous diversification, and the market is attractively priced right now. More important, you’ll have liquidity right away should you need it, at very little cost.

You can find stocks that are paying 3- or 4-percent dividends annually. And under current tax rules, dividend income is taxed at a lower rate than earned income. So I would diversify, concentrating on dividend-paying stocks and mutual funds as well as exchange-trade funds (EFT), which track an index such as the S&P or NASDAQ.

Lastly, don’t forget to keep some cash on hand for emergencies. That said, we are beginning to see some pickup in activity, and I’m projecting this is going to be a better year for the economy overall. -- As told to Thomas Farley

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Jeremy Siegel
Jeremy Siegel is the Russell E. Palmer Professor of Finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Future for Investors: Why the Tried and the True Triumphs Over the Bold and the New and Stocks for the Long Run: The Definitive Guide to Financial Market Returns and Long-term Investment Strategies, the latter named by the Washington Post and Businessweek as one of the 10 best investment books of all time. Siegel is a regular columnist for Kiplinger magazine and provides weekly commentaries and other information on his website, JeremySiegel.com.

I participate in a lot of sports and am constantly getting jock itch. Over-the-counter antifungal medicine takes care of it, but is there any way to prevent getting it in the first place?

Some patients tend to get fungal infections -- such as jock itch, ringworm and nail fungus -- more frequently than others. We don’t know why this is, but we do know that keeping the skin barrier in good shape and dry is the best way to prevent jock itch.

Powders like Gold Bond or Zeasorb can help absorb excess moisture. Another good tip is to use a hair-dryer to make sure the skin in the groin is fully dry after showering. Finally, make sure you shower and change your underwear after working out or if you sweat a lot during the day.

When you have an active jock itch, try an over-the-counter cream that contains clotrimazole. If the area is very inflamed, add a 1 percent hydrocortisone cream as well for up to one week. If it doesn’t go away after two weeks, visit your dermatologist! -- As told to Mike Hammer

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About the Expert

Dr. Josh Zeichner

Dr. Josh Zeichner is a certified dermatologist and the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

My girlfriend says I should be using hair conditioner, but I have short hair and have never used it before. Is she right, and if so, why?

The only way she’d be right is if your hair is really coarse or dry. Otherwise, there’s no need for it. Conditioner -- leave-in or regular -- simply weighs short hair down. Guys with longer hair can benefit from it, but you can just shampoo. If anything, to make her happy, switch to a moisturizing shampoo.

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Garrett Pike
Garrett Pike trained in shaving under Martial Vivot. He now works as a barber for Vivot’s salon for men (MartialVivot.com) in New York City.

What's the best way to maintain a beard and/or mustache if I have coarse, curly facial hair?

There are many reasons why men choose not to wear facial hair. For some, it’s job-related. For others, it’s about avoiding a tedious maintenance routine. Many men with coarse and/or curly beards can relate to the latter challenge -- especially those with shorter beards and mustache styles, like beard scruff and goatees. Since curly hair curls so quickly, there’s a very brief window for shorter styles to look neat compared to their fuller-style counterparts.

But here’s a trick I learned many years ago to help keep those curls at bay and a curly-beard style looking good. I call it “smoothing out.” First, get trimmers or a pair of clippers with comb guards. Select the comb guard that best fits the existing hair length and attach it to the trimmer or clippers. Next, trim the facial hair downward, toward the neck. This process cuts only the top portion of the beard or mustache, leaving the hair length intact and cutting only the hairs that are sticking out or beginning to curl. The end result: a neater beard.

This is a simple and easy trick that can take less than five minutes to accomplish in the morning. Give it a try and see how it works for you!

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Craig the Barber
Craig the Barber is a licensed professional barber and men’s grooming expert, and a frequent contributor to Men’s Life Today. He owns the Los Angeles–based grooming service The Grooming Concierge, serves as a contributor to national magazines and television shows, and is the editor in chief of the daily blog The Men’s Room.

This comes from a longstanding argument with my girlfriend, but is it strictly necessary for guys to wash their hands after going "No. 1"? It's not like I'm really touching anything dirty.

Washing one’s hands after any activity is never a bad idea, no matter what you do. However, urine is theoretically sterile, so it may not be necessary to wash your hands after going to the bathroom, believe it or not. (Unless you have some sort of urinary infection, which is unlikely in men.)

On the other hand, while it may not be medically imperative, it is certainly socially and aesthetically preferred. No one wants to come into contact with someone who has not bothered to wash urine off of his hands. It’s unpleasant, predominantly unacceptable and a little more than off-putting. What’s more troubling about this question is that you seem to want to stand your ground on this issue. To me the bigger question here is … why? -- As told to Mike Hammer

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Dr. Alana Varano
Dr. Alana Varano is a board-certified general practitioner who currently specializes in emergency medicine at the Somerset Valley Urgent Care facility in Bedminster, N.J. She has come into contact with numerous hygienically challenged patients in her professional life, as well as clinically stubborn dudes both on and off the job.

I have a great idea for an iPhone app. How do I go about developing it?

Anyone can turn a great idea into an app by following the five essential steps below. Before you jump in, though, be aware that the entire process can take from two to nine months and cost anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the complexity of your app and your budget.

1. Start drawing. Even if your artistic skills are lacking, sketching out the main screens of the app will help you flesh out your idea. Think through the value you want to provide the user, and ensure that the app delivers it quickly.

2. Think of a catchy name. Try to keep it short; it needs to be recognizable under that little square icon. You should also ensure the domain is available, as you’ll want a website to promote it.

3. Take your atrocious drawings to a designer. This step is often skipped, but it’s worth it -- unless you are a designer, and then you can go ahead and skip away. Design matters, and creating an intuitive app that delights users is as much about the colors, fonts, icons and navigation as it is about your idea. Go to Elance or Freelancer.com and start sorting through profiles and work samples to find a good freelance designer who matches your budget.

4. Find a developer using the same sites. Pick one who has live apps in the app store that you can download and evaluate.

Once it’s developed:

5. Register as an Apple developer, upload your app to iTunes, and wait a week or so for Apple to approve it. Reasons for rejection include explicit material, frequent crashes, and misuse of third-party trademarks. (All apps must comply with Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines.) If the app is not approved, you’ll typically receive a notice with an explanation as to why so you can make the necessary changes.

Then your app will join the more than half a million others out there jockeying for attention. Good luck! -- As told to Caroline Kinneberg

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Ken Dodelin
Ken Dodelin is director of mobile products for the Washington Post and creator of an award-winning tour app called It Happened Here. He is also an adjunct professor of entrepreneurial journalism in Georgetown University’s Master of Professional Studies in Journalism program.

I asked my girlfriend to help me shave my back, and she's game. Anything she should know before she does it?

Shaving your back is a tricky task that’s usually best left to salon professionals. But if you take the right precautions and are careful about your process, tools and procedures, you and your girlfriend can stay in control of a potentially hairy situation.

First, take a hot shower. The hot water will open up the pores and add moisture to the skin, making the blade move more smoothly across it. You might also want your girlfriend to apply hypoallergenic pre-shave oil before shaving cream or gel. It adds a layer of protection and can lessen the possibility of irritation.

Second, have your girlfriend trim long hair down with a pair of clippers. A razor will be more effective if she trims first.

Third, have her use a good razor (one with a sharp, brand-new blade) or you’ll come out looking like the loser in a knife fight. Choose one with a good weight and balance to maximize stability and control and to minimize carnage. Your back and shoulders have different curves and corners -- and more of them -- than your mug.

Finally, tell your girlfriend to stake out small areas to concentrate on and attack them one at a time using light, even strokes. She should start by shaving with the grain. Then, for an even closer shave, she can re-lather and shave lightly across or against the grain. -- As told to Mike Hammer

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George Aminov and Arthur Arthur Iskhakov
George Aminov and Arthur Iskhakov are co-owners of Barber’s Blueprint, a popular luxury men’s salon in the trendy SoHo district of Manhattan.

I just bought a new iPhone to replace the one I lost, and the guy who sold it to me offered me an insurance plan. I said no, but now I'm wondering: Should I insure my phone?

Personally, I don’t think it’s worth it. It may be only about $8 a month, but that becomes $192 over a typical two-year contract. So suppose you’re a shnook (because you bought the insurance) and you’re also a shlub (because you dropped the phone in the toilet), and now you want to collect on your insurance. Now you find out you also have to pay a $50 to $100 deductible, which makes you feel like an even bigger shnook.

Even when they do replace your lost, stolen or damaged phone… it will be with a refurbished one that isn’t even as good as the one you screwed up. So now you’re a schlemiel!

The truth is, the odds are very slim that your new phone is going to break within the first or second month after you buy it. Only 17 percent of buyers get a new phone because the old one broke, and only three percent purchase a new one because the phone was lost or stolen.

A better idea? When you upgrade to a new phone, keep your old one as a backup until the new phone's contract ends -- at which point you'll typically qualify for a new “free” or discount-priced phone with a new contract. -- As told to Mike Hammer

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About the Expert

Jeff Blyskal is a senior editor with Consumer Reports. He has researched and written extensively about consumer electronics.

I heard that over-washing a garment can decrease its lifespan, so I wash my nice jeans and sweaters every three or four (or 10) times I wear them. At what point is this unhygienic?

While there isn’t an exact number of wears that make a sweater or pair of jeans officially dirty, they can become contaminated after just a few hours of being on your body.

The simple fact is, as we work through our daily routines, we get dirty. The sweat glands in our bodies are constantly perspiring; our skin cells are always shedding. Wearing an under-layer may protect a sweater from your body’s contaminants, but it doesn’t protect it from surrounding impurities, such as food, dirt and pollutants in the environment. In fact, most people get their clothes dirty by touching them with their own dirty fingers!

Though contact with any of these contaminants can lead to fungal or bacterial infections (which can manifest on your skin as itching, rashes or clogged pores), a good majority of the germs you’ll come across are harmless. That doesn’t mean you should be careless about washing your clothes, however. Just use common sense.

  • If you are wearing clothes for long periods in the day, are exercising in them or are working outside often, wash them after every use.
  • If you have any open wounds, cover them with adhesive bandages to create a barrier between your skin and the clothing, and make sure to check that the skin is healing well.
  • Wash your hands often and use hand sanitizers. Never share used clothes or towels.
  • Always keep your dirty clothes separate from the clean ones.

You don’t have to live in a bubble. Just be cautious and aware of your daily activities, and you can avoid clothing-caused skin irritation. -- As told to Elizabeth Narins

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Dr. Robert Norman is a board-certified dermatologist based in Tampa, Fla., with more than 20 years of experience. He has authored 23 books, edited four textbooks and published more than 100 articles.

I'm addicted to taking long, hot showers in the winter, but someone just told me that it's the worst thing I can do for my skin. Is it true?

Dry, windy, wintry weather can dehydrate the skin, making it itchy and irritated. You might think that standing in a steamy shower would help keep your skin hydrated, but long showers -- particularly in hot water -- can actually have the opposite effect. Why? Our skin contains special proteins and fats that make up a protective barrier and lock in moisture to protect us from harsh outside environments. Long or frequent showers remove protective oils that the skin naturally produces. When the oils are lost, water from the skin also escapes; thus dehydrated, the skin can crack or rash. For this reason, you should take warm showers instead of hot ones. The cooler water is less harsh on these protective oils and therefore allows them to continue to do their job.

If you insist on a hot shower, then at least take a look at your soap. Soap cleansers are alkaline, which are damaging to the skin. They can aggravate dryness, leave your skin feeling tight, and even eventually lead to a rash. Try using a mild soap, particularly one designed for sensitive skin, for those areas that require extra scrubbing (i.e., your face, underarms and groin area). Or replace your traditional soap with an oil-infused shower gel; the oil can replace the natural oils that the water strips from your skin.

After showering, gently pat the skin dry with a towel -- don’t rub. Then apply a moisturizer to seal the water into the skin before the water can evaporate. -- As told to Mike Hammer

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Dr. Paul Robert Pirigyi is a board-certified physician with a specialization in emergency care medicine. He has treated hundreds of skin conditions in his 35 years of practice, from burns and contusions to commonplace rashes and abrasions. He is currently a partner in Somerset Valley Urgent Care in Bedminster, N.J.

During the winter, my skin gets really dry. Is there a special way to shave dry skin?

The fall and winter seasons wreak havoc on our skin. Low humidity and heaters contribute to dryness, and less moisture means more trouble shaving. Moreover, skin retains less moisture as we age, so it’s only getting worse.

To prevent dry, irritated skin during the winter, follow this shaving guide:

1. Wash your face with soap-free cleansers to remove excess oil and dirt. If you have dry skin, prevent further irritation by avoiding abrasive soaps or those with surfactants, which strip skin of oil and contribute to dryness. Unless you really need it, stay away from acne washes, which can leave your skin thirsty. Also, use an exfoliant once or twice a week prior to shaving; it will remove dead skin cells and help prevent ingrown hairs in the process. This isn’t just great for the skin; it also gives you a smoother, more comfortable shave.

2. Apply shaving cream or gel, always. It hydrates the hair, making it easier to cut. Plus, it makes your skin slick so the razor can glide over it.

3. Shave with light, short strokes in the direction of the hair growth. Rinse the razor frequently to remove buildup of hair and shave gel, but avoid tapping it against the sink. (It can dull the blades and cause irregularities on the cutting surface.)

4. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! Especially in the winter, when your skin needs all the help it can get, moisturizers can help restore the integrity of the skin and prevent excess loss of moisture. -- Reviewed by Craig the Barber, a skin- and hair-care expert specializing in men of all ethnicities, and the editor in chief of the grooming blog TheMensRoom.com.

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About the Expert

Dr. Josh Zeichner

Dr. Josh Zeichner is a certified dermatologist and the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

I know you're supposed to shave with the grain, but I just can't get a close shave that way. Is it possible to get a comfortable shave against the grain?

It’s true that shaving against the grain will most likely get you the tightest shave, but not everyone’s face is durable enough to do so. If you think your face is up to it, prep with a warm, damp towel or a splash of warm water, and lather up so the hair will be softer and easier to cut, your skin will stay moisturized and the blade will glide smoothly. Then take short, quick strokes in order to keep the razor’s pressure steady against your skin.

If you have pain, red spots, blood or irritation, stop. There are a few other things you can try in lieu of shaving against the grain. For example, after shaving with the grain, re-lather and shave from side to side, going across your beard growth. You can also try taking diagonal strokes going up. -- As told to Caroline Kinneberg

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About the Expert

Garrett Pike
Garrett Pike trained in shaving under Martial Vivot. He now works as a barber for Vivot’s salon for men (MartialVivot.com) in New York City.

I never know whether to accept an extended warranty offer. Are they a smart move or a waste of money? Or does it depend on the product?

Often, warranties are just a way for merchants to collect cash for services they probably won’t render. Here are five good reasons why you should pretty much always say “No” to an extended warranty:

1. You don’t know who’s going to fix the product.
Sometimes the retailer who sells you the product determines who fixes it -- and it’s not always the manufacturer. This is not a good position for you to be in. Their people may not be available to repair your product right away. You may even have to wait months for satisfaction.

2. The product may not be worth it.
When considering a warranty, consumers often make the mistake of not taking into account the cost of the original product. If you’re buying a $20 low-end electronic device, what’s the use of forking out the same amount for a five-year warranty? You’re better off just buying a new one when it breaks.

3. The underwriter may go belly-up.
A merchant may have a warranty repair contract with an independent agent company that goes out of business. If that’s the case, the merchant may not have an obligation to fulfill your repair contract. The end result? You’re out of luck.

4. The fine print may come back to bite you.
Close examination of the fine print will often reveal that the parameters of the coverage don’t allow for the specific repair you need. In addition, a retailer will always examine the item, and if there is any kind of external damage (a scratch or a stain -- not unusual after using a device for a couple of years), that may also void the warranty. In essence, they can basically make up the rules to fit their purpose.

5. You may already be covered.
If the manufacturer’s warranty is for one year, and you purchase an extended warranty that runs concurrently and offers the same repair value, you’re basically wasting your money for the first year. After the first year, it becomes increasingly likely that you’ll inadvertently void the contract (see No. 4, above) -- or you may just be ready for an upgrade.

The best advice? Pay with a credit card that allows you to double the manufacturer’s warranty, without any additional cost to you. And this goes without saying, but try to take care of your stuff. -- As told to Mike Hammer

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John R. Lieberman is a certified public accountant and personal financial specialist with New York City accounting firm Perelson Weiner. He has been on most major networks, as well as on “The Daily Show,” commenting on taxes and financial planning.

How does moisturizer work, scientifically speaking? There are so many options; what's the difference?

Knowing how moisturizers work can help you select the best one for your individual skin needs.

In general, moisturizers are products that improve the function of the skin barrier. They usually contain ingredients that help increase the amount of water in the skin. Here are three categories that moisturizing ingredients may fall into:

  • Emollients: molecules that hydrate the skin. Examples include oils or lipids, such as petrolatum or dimethicone.
  • Humectants: molecules that attract water to the skin surface from deep in the skin and from the environment and that may also hydrate the skin. One example is glycerol.
  • Occlusives: ingredients that provide a physical barrier that prevents water loss from the skin. Examples include petrolatum and lanolin.

Moisturizers help bring the outer layer of the skin back to as normal a state as possible by soothing the skin and filling in tiny breaks. They increase the water content of the skin and prevent excess water from evaporating from the skin’s surface and into the environment. The newest moisturizers also help replace fats that may be lacking in people with dry skin.

No one moisturizer on the market is perfect for everyone’s skin type, since there can be up to five different types (i.e., normal, dry, oily, combination and sensitive). My general rule of thumb is to find one that you like and will use since the best moisturizer is the one that actually gets applied to the skin. -- Reviewed by Craig the Barber, a skin- and hair- care expert who specializes in men of all ethnicities, and the editor in chief of the grooming blog TheMensRoom.com.

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About the Expert

Dr. Josh Zeichner

Dr. Josh Zeichner is a certified dermatologist and the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Lately, my skin has been really dry and scaly. How do I fix it?

We all know about dry skin. It’s itchy, irritating, and -- let’s be honest -- can be an annoying skin condition. But what exactly is it?

Dry skin is a condition characterized by a decreased level of fats in the skin, as well as reduced amount of water in the outer epidermal (skin) layer. The skin frequently appears rough and scaly, and it may even itch.

There are several different causes of dry skin -- some can be the result of bodily conditions, and some can stem from environmental factors. Here are four common triggers: 

1.    Weather: The lack of humidity in dry and cold climates prevents the skin from retaining its natural water content. Indoor heaters can also make the air even drier and worsen skin dehydration.

2.    Excessive skin-washing: Overexposure to water, detergents and alkali soaps can strip the skin of oil and lead to dryness. Moreover, contrary to what you make think, scrubbing the skin can make dry skin even worse!

3.    Health problems: Thyroid disease, eczema, psoriasis and ichthyosis are just a few common health-related causes of dry skin. Malnutrition can lead to scaly skin as well. When the body is not healthy, the skin and oil-producing glands cannot work as well as they should.

4.      Old age: As we get older, our skin loses moisture as a result of weaknesses in the skin barrier, loss of water, and decreased amounts of fats that are produced in the surface of the skin.

So how do you treat dry skin? Limit the number of times you wash your skin each day, and use mild, soap-free cleansers. Always use moisturizer after cleansing and consider using a humidifier to increase the moisture levels of the air inside your home. Also, since the act of shaving can also dry the skin, following with an after shave balm will help to restore moisture and heal the skin. This should be done prior to using your face moisturizer. If necessary, talk to your dermatologist about other prescription options.

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About the Expert

Craig the Barber
Craig the Barber is a licensed professional barber and men’s grooming expert, and a frequent contributor to Men’s Life Today. He owns the Los Angeles–based grooming service The Grooming Concierge, serves as a contributor to national magazines and television shows, and is the editor in chief of the daily blog The Men’s Room.

I've been told I should use cloud services to store and access my files. What are they, exactly, and how do I pick one? Are there any security concerns or other things I need to know about?

The “cloud” here is the Internet. Cloud storage sites are essentially server farms to which you remotely upload your data. By keeping your files in the cloud, you can access them from any of your Internet-enabled devices -- computer, smartphone or tablet -- wherever in the world you are. In addition, you can enable password access to specific documents or folders that friends, family members and colleagues can then view on either a one-time or a permanent basis. This can be useful when sharing photos among family members, for example. It’s also a good solution for transmitting files that are too large to send via email.

Before you sign up for a cloud service, figure out how much space you’ll need. On a PC, go to “My Documents” and look at how much memory you’re currently using. On a Mac, you can find similar info in the folders you’ve designated for your various documents. Over the next couple of years, your storage needs will likely be two to three times the amount you’re currently using. There’s no need to buy all of that space now, but be ready to upgrade down the line.

Although there are multiple cloud storage companies, I like Dropbox, SugarSync and KeepVault. And for Mac users who are seeking to save and sync their media across multiple iOS devices (computer, iPhone, iPad), you can’t beat iCloud. All of these services are easy to use, flexible and reasonably priced. (With the exception of KeepVault, they’re free until the user exceeds a certain storage threshold. Once you’ve used up your free storage, you’ll need to upgrade to a larger account, for which monthly or annual fees will apply.)

After you’re set up, use your cloud account to both archive data and back up different versions of your documents as you alter them on your computer. These automated backups will continue on an ongoing basis so you won’t need to worry about setting them to run manually.

Although the idea of putting your files on a third-party server might raise privacy alarms for you, I wouldn’t worry too much about peering eyes. Nobody is that desperate to see your vacation photos. For sensitive files, you can always password-protect them before uploading them to the cloud. This will give you a dual layer of security (the second layer being the password you’ll need each time you access your cloud account).

One final caveat: Although it’s unlikely that any of these cloud services will go out of business or disappear, for your really important files, you should have a backup of your backup, just in case. For that, I suggest an external drive. -- As told to Thomas P. Farley

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Suzanne Kantra
Suzanne Kantra is the in-house tech expert for Martha Stewart Living, host of “Living With Technology” on Sirius Radio, and creator of Techlicious.com, a tech site for women. Kantra has served as a consumer technology expert on CNN, NBC, CNBC, “FOX News” and “The Rachael Ray Show,” as well as many radio shows across the country. She is also a regular contributor to Better Homes and Gardens, Martha Stewart Living Radio, MSNBC.com and Today.com.

I'd like to launch a blog. How do I get started, and how do I get people to read it? Is it something I can do in my spare time, or do I need to quit my job?

Here are five steps for creating a successful blog, whether the goal is to make money or to simply wax philosophical:

1. Decide what you want to write about and why.
What’s the subject? Are you familiar with it? You don’t have to be an expert, but you do need to know your subject matter. Are there existing blogs out there that deal with the same topic? How will your blog be different?

2. Come up with 30 blog post ideas.
If you can’t come up with 30, it’s probably not a good idea to pursue the blog. If you can easily come up with 30 or more, it’s a good indicator you’ll have plenty of material.

I like to write headlines to get started on this. For example, for TheNateGreenExperience.com (my fitness/lifestyle blog), some headlines I’ve used are:

“The Hero Blueprint: 11 Tenets of an Awesomely Rich Life”
“The Easiest 20-minute Date Meal Ever”
“The Playground Workout”

3. Brainstorm good names for your website.
Unique, short and easy-to-spell URLs work best, such as FourHourBlog.com or MarksDailyApple.com. My website can also be accessed at NateGreenBlog.com -- short and sweet, and it has the added bonus of including my name.

4. Don’t worry about making money at first.
The best marketing is putting out high-quality content. That means you need to spend time providing a lot of value to your readers and being consistent with your updates. Shoot for once-per-week blog posts.

5. Make money (if that’s your goal).
You should only start thinking about making money with your blog once you’ve been at it long enough to know that you enjoy it and to have built up a strong following. That means your fans show they’re passionate about your work and are willing to support other projects of yours.

The first step is to give away a ton of value for free. This can be as simple as offering insightful blog posts or it can be more. For example, I give away “The Hero Handbook” on my site. It’s been downloaded more than 15,000 times this year!

Second, create a product that can help your readers, offer coaching services or find another way to solve your readers’ problems -- and charge for it. My blog’s main focus isn’t making money; it’s to showcase me and my writing (which, in turn, helps me get jobs contributing to magazines and other websites). However, I do make money from selling The Hero Workout, my 16-week workout and nutrition plan.

It takes a long time to get good at blogging. It takes time to gain respect, and it takes even more time to make money. Blogging’s not a quick fix. But it is highly rewarding and can change your life if you do it right. -- As told to Caroline Kinneberg

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Nate Green
Nate Green, 26, has been featured in the LA Times, Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness, and has been a guest on top-ranked radio stations across the U.S. since launching TheNateGreenExperience.com in 2007. He’s also the author of Built for Show: Four Body-changing Workouts for Building Muscle, Losing Fat and Looking Good Enough to Hook Up.

I want to throw a Halloween party this year, but not the same old fake spider webs and "bloody" red punch. How can I make my party stand out?

First, bring on the costumes! You need people to dress up; otherwise, it’s just another lame gathering at your place. How to do this depends on your friends. Are they competitive? Have a costume contest. Do they need a little guidance? Give your party a theme, like “Zombie Prom” or “Scary Hospital.” If you have friends that are not dress-up types, send the slackers to the “costume corner,” where you’ve set up one box of weird clothes from the Salvation Army and another box of stage makeup so they can create their own costumes on the spot.

Second, decorate. Hit Goodwill or The Salvation Army for ideas; you don’t know what weird stuff you’ll find. Set the tone in the entryway with spooky music and a costumed friend scaring people. Have scenes from black-and-white horror movies playing on your TV or laptop. Old horror movies are much scarier than any Jason and Freddy cliches. Think The Thing, Psycho or The Evil Dead. Skip the “Monster Mash” when it comes to music and create a fun song list that your friends will enjoy. If you go too corny, people will leave.

If you’re feeling flush, then pick up some strobe lights. Dry ice or a smoke machine can also add to the mood, though they can be potentially dangerous. Remember to make sure you have proper ventilation and follow the rules for dry ice. (It burns skin on contact.)

Unless you’re 7, Halloween isn’t about the food, so don’t go all out. Pick some quick and easy snacks, like bowls of Halloween candy, pizza or any finger food that you can just heat up. For drinks, look online for Halloween-themed recipes. There are some great ones you can make in advance, and they go way beyond red Kool-Aid.

Now relax and enjoy your new role as a Halloween party god! -- As told to Jody Orshal-Carty

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Johanna Walsh

Johanna Walsh is an eco-event planner and consultant based in San Francisco and New York City. She is the founder and manager of Twirl Management, a firm that develops and promotes environmentally responsible events.

What should I do when I get a sports injury? Apply ice? Heat? Ice and then heat? I'm totally confused.

Ice is more appropriate than heat for treating most sports injuries.

In general, heat should only be applied for chronic issues such as muscle or joint stiffness and soreness. Heat can also help relax muscles or decrease muscle spasms. In these cases, however, heat helps promote blood flow and prepare tissue before physical activity; it should never be applied after exercise, since it would simply direct blood flow to the injured area and increase inflammation.

Any time you suffer an acute injury with swelling or inflammation, cryotherapy -- aka the application of ice -- is the way to go. Decreasing the temperature of injured tissue helps to diminish pain, slow down muscle metabolism and minimize muscle spasms. That means less inflammation and better tissue recovery. With that said, the benefits of ice differ depending on the stage of the injury. Applying it immediately after trauma minimizes the degree of tissue damage. Once some time has passed, its primary purpose is to relieve pain and make activity more tolerable.

Large, flexible gel packs that contour to the injured area are better than rigid ice packs. For the average injury, applying ice 10 to 20 minutes two to four times a day is adequate. More severe injuries and postoperative patients can require up to 30 to 45 minutes of cryotherapy every two hours. -- As told to Caroline Kinneberg

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Dr. Trina Rowe
Dr. Trina Rowe has a doctorate in physical therapy and serves as a staff physical therapist at the Bauerfeind Performance  Center in Santa Monica, Calif.

Are disposable razors more hygienic than razors with disposable cartridges?

Both disposable razors and cartridge shaving systems can be used at least three times before discarding (the whole razor in the former case, the cartridge in the latter). Hygienically, both choices are equal as long you practice proper storage habits (i.e., drying blades thoroughly and storing them in a dry, cool place after each use). Proper storage is key in maintaining the integrity of the blade and preventing mold or mildew from forming.

There are slight advantages to each choice, depending on your shaving habits. The disposable cartridge pack is designed so that you can store your blades in one compact holder and easily keep track of the ones currently in use, while also having the newer ones handy in the same space. It’s more difficult to keep track of disposable razors, and they’re a lot bulkier in a travel kit, but they work well for the person who likes to keep razors handy in different places, like the gym or the office. The disposable nature of this razor eliminates the worry of accidentally leaving a more expensive handle and/or cartridge set behind.

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Craig the Barber
Craig the Barber is a licensed professional barber and men’s grooming expert, and a frequent contributor to Men’s Life Today. He owns the Los Angeles–based grooming service The Grooming Concierge, serves as a contributor to national magazines and television shows, and is the editor in chief of the daily blog The Men’s Room.

A bunch of my coworkers are doing a juice cleanse. What's with this trend? Are there any real benefits?

Doing a juice cleanse is like pushing the reset button on your health. It gives your body a break from consuming less-than-healthy choices, like alcohol and processed foods, and floods it with essential nutrients from pressed fruits, vegetables and nuts, which can be digested more effectively. On a cleanse, our bodies take the energy that is typically used for digesting solid foods to work on backlogged problems -- this can be particularly beneficial when you’re getting sick or feeling sluggish. Everyone has a different experience on the cleanse, but benefits may include increased energy and sex drive, clearer skin, and elevated mood.

During a typical juice cleanse, you eat no solid foods for about three days, but it’s very different from a fast: Most people don’t feel hungry on the cleanse because their bodies are getting a sufficient amount of calories. In fact, on a BluePrintCleanse, you consume the juiced equivalent of about 20 pounds of raw produce per day -- more than the average person consumes in a week!

Doing a three-day cleanse once a month is ideal, but if that’s too much, try cleansing once a season. It’s always easier with support, so I would definitely recommend cleansing with a friend or coworker. You can keep each other honest and keep one another from reaching for a bagel on Office Bagel Day. -- As told to Elizabeth Narins

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Julie Ruelle, R.D.
Julie Ruelle, R.D., has over 10 years of experience as a registered dietician. Now a nutritionist for BluePrintCleanse , a New York City–based juice-cleanse company, she cleanses about once a month.

I've been using disposable razors all my life. My buddy says I should upgrade to a system razor. What's the difference?

First off, to clarify your question for readers, disposable razors are the ones you buy in a pack; when the blade dulls, you throw the whole razor out. With system razors, you buy a single, reusable razor and the blade cartridges separately. The cartridges are disposable but not the razor itself.

You’ll notice the difference as soon as you pick up a system razor. From the construction of the handle for a better grip, to blades made from higher-quality steel (and usually an extra blade or two) ... all of these attributes help you get a better shave.

Another nice feature unique to system razors is pivoting heads with moisture strips on top of the blade. Anything that keeps moisture between the blade and your face will help you get a smoother and more comfortable shave. On the other hand, disposable razors are usually very light in weight. To compensate, men tend to apply too much pressure when shaving, which may result in irritation and ingrown hairs.

The number of shaves you get with a system razor really depends on how thick your beard is, but disposable razors, by contrast, are usually meant to be used fewer times and then thrown away.

I say make the switch. You’ll be amazed at what shaving in the 21st century feels like. -- As told to Caroline Kinneberg

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Garrett Pike
Garrett Pike trained in shaving under Martial Vivot. He now works as a barber for Vivot’s salon for men (MartialVivot.com) in New York City.

In my work I can not wear sandals. What to do to make my dress shoes more comfortable?

The first point that people in general should bear in mind is to buy shoes only after 14h. This is because, throughout the day, your feet are swollen. Another important detail is that they should be soft and not too tight e. The ideal size is what gives you room to wiggle your toes. In the case of work must be of genuine leather. Place insoles does not help, because tightening, further reduces the internal space. Cotton socks are a must, why not give your feet and pressed to remove moisture.

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Adrian Wood is a Master Barber and the proprietor of New York City's oldest barber shop. He’s traveled the world with his razor and shears, doing stints in London, Montreal and Bermuda before settling in New York 35 years ago.

I'm starting to see "green" dry cleaners everywhere. What does that mean? Am I really damaging the earth (or myself) if I dry-clean my shirts the old-fashioned way?

First, let’s take a look at the differences between traditional and organic dry-cleaning. The former uses a chemical called perchloroethylene (or “perc”), which has known toxicity; exposure to high concentrations can, for instance, cause central nervous system effects such as dizziness and headaches. There is some controversy as to whether harmful residue is left on clothes. There is also concern about its environmental impact. So while perc is an effective cleaner, there has been a search for safer, gentler, more environmentally friendly cleaning methods.

Enter the organic dry-cleaning process. There is no government regulation about what constitutes organic or “green” dry-cleaning, so be wary as the words are sometimes used inappropriately. My two preferred organic methods are professional wet-cleaning, which uses safe compounds, and liquid carbon dioxide cleaning. Avoid so-called “green” methods that use hydrocarbons, which are petroleum-based and therefore may add to greenhouse gases.

Before you rush to get a garment dry-cleaned, consider whether you could hand-wash it instead, or wear it one more time before taking it in. Many of us have a tendency to over-clean our clothes, thus shortening their lifespan. Many times a steamer, brush or spritz of water can freshen an item of clothing to look (and smell) like it just came back from the cleaners.

When I do need to get something cleaned, I tend to use organic dry cleaners; it’s worth the extra money if they do a good job. But you need to find someone who has the experience and knows how to work with these methods. Ask the cleaner beforehand if he can get the garment clean; if he can’t, take it elsewhere.

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Jen Abrams

Jen Abrams is a lifestyle editor, fashion consultant and stylist who has worked with everyone from pro athletes and celebrities to TV personalities and business execs.

I heard that sunscreens with higher SPFs than 30 don't make a difference. Is that true, or should I be using the highest SPF I can find?

This is a lingering myth left over from the ’80s, when sunscreen technology was not as advanced as it is today. SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of UVB rays. SPF 50 blocks 98.3 percent. SPF 100 blocks 99 percent. Sounds like almost the same numbers, but what it really means is that SPF 30 allows 3 percent of UVB rays to pass, while 50 allows only 1.7 percent -- almost twice the protection.

So how do you pick your sunscreen? The American Academy of Dermatology recommends daily use of at least SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunscreen, with higher SPF choices for extended sun exposure or for anyone with a history of skin cancer or other medical concerns that warrant extra protection.

Also, be sure to choose only broad-spectrum protection, which means high-quality UVA and UVB protection. UVA rays are longer wavelength rays and reach deeper into the skin, contributing to wrinkling and loss of skin quality. But the old easy division into “B causes burning and A causes wrinkling” has been proven false. Both types of rays cause all three types of damage (burning, aging and cancer), just in varying degrees.

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Jessica Krant
Jessica Krant  is a board-certified dermatologist, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City and the founder of Art of Dermatology, a private practice in New York City. She tweets @TheSkinMD. She is a frequent contributor to Men’s Life Today.

My office has half-day Fridays in the summer, but the past couple of weeks it seemed my boss worked the full day. Should I be staying too?

Like camping in grizzly country, being aware of your surroundings is the key here. Keep your eyes open to what is going on around you: Is your boss the only one staying? Are there others? Is there a crisis or a big project going on? If so, then you should stay and show you are willing to pitch in. But if it’s just your boss hanging around after hours, and it’s to organize his or her desk, then feel free to kick-start your weekend.

It’s a balancing act. You want to help out if it’s called for, but you also want to take advantage of the benefit of summer hours. Summer goes by quickly, and you’ll be scraping your windshield again before too long. Staying just to stay is a waste of time; you won’t look good sitting around doing nothing. So unless there is a reason to stay, go!

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Lynn Berger
Lynn Berger is a New York City-based career counselor and the author of The Savvy Part-time Professional. She has been featured in The Washington Post, Money and Real Simple.

I'm African-American. Why am I more prone to shaving bumps?


Many African-Americans do suffer from shaving bumps, but the real culprit isn’t ethnicity -- it’s hair type. Anyone with wavy or curly hair may be prone to shaving bumps or ingrown hairs because of the way their hair grows out of the skin. While straight hair grows out of the skin at a 90-degree angle, wavy or curly hair tends to grow closer to the skin’s surface (between zero and 40 degrees). And when short, recently shaved hair grows low to the surface of the skin, it’s easier for it to simply curl back into the skin, resulting in a shaving bump. This isn’t the case with straighter hair.

So what’s the solution? Start becoming more conscious of the direction in which your hair grows, and focus on shaving in only that direction (also known as “with the grain”). Also, always make sure to prep your skin with a moisture-rich shaving cream or gel, and remember to always use an aftershave balm.

For more tips on how to nip shaving bumps in the bud, check out How to Avoid Razor Bumps.

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About the Expert

Craig the Barber
Craig the Barber is a licensed professional barber and men’s grooming expert, and a frequent contributor to Men’s Life Today. He owns the Los Angeles–based grooming service The Grooming Concierge, serves as a contributor to national magazines and television shows, and is the editor in chief of the daily blog The Men’s Room.

I have a job interview. Do I need to wear a tie? No one seems to wear one anymore.

In today’s job market, making a positive first impression counts more than ever, so dressing appropriately for an interview is always a good way to start.

Although many industries have adopted a more corporate-casual look for their employees, you’re not one of them until you’ve landed the job. So yes, you still need to wear “interview attire.”

What does that mean? Essentially, you need to dress for the specific industry. Banking, accounting, finance and insurance companies still require more traditional types of interview clothes. I recommend a suit, dress shirt and tie.

Creative industries like advertising, media, Web startups and fashion houses may expect a look that is less formal and more cutting-edge. But that doesn’t mean you can show up in shorts and sneakers. You’ll still be expected to look professional -- in a suit or blazer-and-slacks combo -- though you can likely get away without a tie.

In the end, if you’re not sure what to do, play it safe and make your fashion mark after you’ve accepted the job offer.

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Stella Angelakos is a human resources professional with more than a decade of experience.

I want to reach my one-rep max on the bench press. How do I get there?

Bragging rights come to those who can boast an impressive one-rep max bench press. But you need to prepare for that heavy effort -- almost as if you were training for a race. I recommend an eight- to 10-week buildup. One workout a week should be your heavy-chest day, where you do five sets at a weight you can handle for three to six reps. Low-rep heavy sets will build the muscle and tendon strength you’ll need. The other key workout should focus on the assistor muscles in the bench press -- shoulder, triceps. Do this once weekly too.

After four to five weeks, you can gauge where you are by taking the top weight you've progressed to benching for three repetitions and adding 5 percent to that weight for a single rep lift. Example: Say when you started the program, the best you could do for a set of three repetitions was 195 pounds. After five weeks, that weight has increased to 210 pounds for three reps. For the halfway mark, you'd increase that weight by approximately 5 percent (roughly 10 pounds), for a lift of 220 pounds for one rep.

If you make that lift and think you can go higher still, add 5 to 10 pounds more and attempt another single. This will establish where you are at the halfway point. The next week, you'd go back to training with sets of five and three reps, until the eight or 10 weeks are up and you’re ready for your “final” one-rep attempt.

Doing single reps is a performance lift, not to be overused or abused. It's one of the most common mistakes I see in the gym: guys maxing out at every single workout.


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Bob Phillips has been a personal trainer in Long Island, N.Y., for 20 years. He is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

I'm pretty clueless when it comes to dressing -- but I want to look at least semi-cool. Is there someone in a store I can count on to help me look good?

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many career salespeople anymore, so finding one who can give you good advice takes a bit of trial and error. Start by looking for a salesperson who’s in your age range, who’s wearing something -- say, a shirt-and-tie combination -- that appeals to you but has a certain flair. (If he reminds you of your dad, that’s probably not the person for you.) It’s like any relationship: There should be a little spark of something, a little chemistry. If you’re shopping for something to wear to the office or an interview, he should offer tailoring and be able to guide you: how much cuff should show under a suit jacket, where a tie should hit, where your pants should sit, how much of a break you should have, whether to cuff or not. These are the common sartorial questions. Guys hate to try things on, but very few men can wear things off the rack and have them fit perfectly -- so you need to put in the time. And don’t get anything altered while wearing a T-shirt and sneakers: A good store should give you a dress shirt and a pair of proper shoes to wear.
--Taylor Antrim
 

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Expert Michael Macko is the fashion director of Details magazine.

I keep stuff in my refrigerator for a long time. How can I tell when something's gone bad without getting food poisoning?

The rule of thumb with most foods is: If it smells and/or looks gross, it’s probably unsafe to eat. When in doubt, toss it out -- it’s a whole lot better to be a little wasteful than a lot doubled over with food poisoning.

However, some foods can look and smell perfectly fine and still contain harmful stuff. To avoid food-borne diseases -- which sicken 76 million people a year, according to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association -- you should always: 

Consume packaged food by its “use by” or “best before” date.

Eat foods with “sell by” dates -- such as meats and dairy products -- within five days of that date.

Toss sliced deli meats after five days.

To further decrease your risk of food poisoning, you might want to take a second look at your fridge, where nasty bacteria, viruses and parasites can lurk. To improve your refrigerator hygiene:

  • Don’t let leftovers sit in your fridge for more than two or three days.
  • Keep the fridge temperature between 34 F and 40 F. (Supermarkets sell thermometers if your fridge doesn’t have one.)
  • Keep it clean. Wipe up spills before they become science projects.


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Expert Jim Romanoff writes the weekly “Healthy Plate” and “Budget Cooking” columns for The Associated Press. Romanoff lives up in cold Vermont and thus doesn’t need a refrigerator.

I'm going to my girlfriend's parents' house to meet the family. Can you give me some tips on not screwing things up?

Don’t think you have to entertain or make sure they know all your positive attributes (they’ve already heard them -- guaranteed!).

Do three simple things:

  1. Observe Attentiveness and eye contact is key. Did someone get up to take plates into the kitchen? Grab a few and follow them. Dad’s beer almost empty? Ask if he wants another.
  2. Ask The easiest way to be likeable is being interested in them. GF’s brother installed the ceiling fan? Really? Fascinating! How’d he do it? And the lasagna: a family recipe? Riveting!
  3. Remember In hour one, GF’s mom mentions that GF had a cat named Buttons when she was a little girl. Nothing will impress Mom more than your asking about Buttons in hour three.


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Dr. Belisa Vranich

Dr. Belisa Vranich is a clinical psychologist, author and public speaker specialising in relationships and sex. She is also a member of the Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute and a sexpert at GoodInBed.com.

Is there any way to get rid of a cowlick? Or any tricks to make it less conspicuous?

Because a cowlick is a growth pattern -- as in, that’s just how your hair grows -- there’s absolutely no way to get rid of it. And I wouldn’t try. It’s going against the grain. You have to work with it.

The most important thing is to make sure your hair is completely wet when you start styling it. Your hair is in a different state when wet because certain chemical bonds have broken down, making it more malleable. And I mean wet with water; you can add some gel if you like, but water is the key ingredient. Once it’s fully wet, use a no-crease clip (you could also try a hat or bandana) to push your hair down in the direction you’d like it to stay. Leave it in this position until fully dry. Think of it like clay: When wet, it’s pliable; when dry, it’s hardened.

A different approach to dealing with a cowlick is to grow your hair out. Hair is like bamboo. The longer the piece of bamboo, the more you can successfully manipulate it. The shorter the piece of bamboo, the more likely it will snap back into its original position. So longer is better -- or at least easier.

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Matt Flynn has worked as a stylist in New York City for more than 30 years, brushing up the likes of Matt Dillon, Rupert Everett and Yogi Berra. He was also the first to get at Andre Agassi with a buzzer.

I know a lot of guys go sockless in summer, but I assume there are some rules involved. What are they?

The sockless look says you’re confident, bold and boyish. It’s a cooler, younger look that’s appropriate practically anywhere except a business setting where a suit is required. Here are a few guidelines for success without socks:

  • Let your environment dictate whether or not you wear them. If you’re going to a “serious” event, you should put socks on. It’s possible to get away without them when wearing loafers and pants, but if you’re not sure, err on the side of socks.
  • Stick with shoes that are meant to be worn without socks, such as casual shoes without laces, boating shoes and loafers. (Check out Tod’s) You can also go sockless with sneakers in the summer.
  • Be conscious of your feet. While you should definitely go sockless with sandals, flip-flops and any other sort of toeless shoe, it can be hard to pull it off if you’re not vigilant about the way your feet look -- so take that into consideration. Also, save sandals for the beach or for weekends when you’re hanging out with friends. Sandals are completely inappropriate for work and for many other situations as well. Know the dress code before you slip them on.
  • Consider your outfit. If you’re wearing linen, denim or khaki pants with a blazer, go ahead and wear a pair of loafers or bucks without the socks. Generally, you shouldn’t wear socks with shorts -- unless you’re going to the gym.

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Annie Barlow
Annie Barlow is head men’s wardrobe consultant and personal shopper for juliewatsonstyle, based in Chicago. As a stylist for Nautica founder David Chu’s high-end suit and sportswear line, she’s dressed the hosts of “NFL Sunday Night Football” and CBS tennis and golf events, including Bill MacAtee, Jim Nantz and John McEnroe.

The guy in the cube next to me at work has killer body odor. How do I tell him -- without coming off like a jerk?

The first thing you need to do is determine your risk. Does the chance of offending him make you reluctant to say anything? If so, you can go to his supervisor for confidential assistance. Although that may seem awkward too, I would begin by saying something like, “I’m coming to you confidentially with a situation I need some advice on … it makes me uncomfortable … what should I do?” The boss may take things from there or refer the situation to human resources.

If you decide to handle the conversation on your own, start with a disclaimer. Your approach should be something like this: “I want to talk with you about a sensitive issue and I sincerely hope you receive it in the manner in which it’s intended. You’re probably not aware of this, but you have a certain body odor. I’m telling you because I figured you’d want to know, so you can address it before it has an effect on your work relationships and professional image. If the situation were reversed, I hope you’d feel comfortable sharing something like this with me.”

This bold effort is an honest attempt to take care of an uncomfortable situation --and kudos to you if you can do it. After you’ve had the conversation, say a prayer and hold your breath! (No pun intended.)

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Diane Gottsman
Diane Gottsman is a national etiquette professional, founder of the Protocol School of Texas, author of Pearls of Polish, and a sought-after industry expert. She is regularly featured on television networks such as CNN and quoted in national publications, including the New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes, Woman’s Day, Martha Stewart Living, Details, Glamour and SELF.

Does shaving daily cause shaving bumps?

Many men believe that the best way to prevent shaving bumps is to let the skin rest for several days between shaves, but this isn’t the solution for preventing shaving bumps.

So the short answer is ... no, shaving daily does not cause shaving bumps. You can rest your skin as long as you’d like, but unless you change the way you shave, you’ll keep getting those bumps.

The primary cause of shaving bumps -- also known as “ingrown hairs” -- is hair growing back into the skin. So the frequency of shaves isn’t the root of the problem; it’s the method of shaving. Proper preparation, along with shaving with the grain, is the best way to keep the hair above the skin line. As long as you keep the hair above the skin line, the hair has more of an opportunity to continue growing outside of the skin, therefore greatly reducing the chances of getting shaving bumps.

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Craig the Barber
Craig the Barber is a licensed professional barber and men’s grooming expert, and a frequent contributor to Men’s Life Today. He owns the Los Angeles–based grooming service The Grooming Concierge, serves as a contributor to national magazines and television shows, and is the editor in chief of the daily blog The Men’s Room.

I've been tapped to be my buddy's best man. I want to do right by him, but I'm financially strapped. How do I give a killer bachelor party on the cheap?

A bachelor party is all about celebrating your friend, which doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. Gather your buddies, watch a game, throw the football and have a barbeque. But don’t stay inside your place -- it will look obvious that you are scrimping. Even if it’s just your backyard, move the party to another venue.

Of course it’s better to throw the party a little farther away from your pad than right behind it. Try to combine the food and drinking with activities like bowling, pool, golf, etc. Most places are open and not busy on Sunday afternoons or evenings, so you may be able to get a discount package and save money that way. Use the Web to find specials. Ten is the minimum number of guests you want to invite; most places won’t give you special deals for fewer people.

The good news is that as best man, you are not on the hook for the whole tab! Etiquette rules call for the best man to pay for the groom, and the rest of the guests to split the bill. Skip the strippers -- you don’t need them. In addition to saving even more bucks, your buddy’s fiancee will thank you and praise your enlightened outlook to her bridesmaids.

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Sam Boudloche

Sam Boudloche is director of special events at Slate, a premier club/restaurant/party venue in New York City.

I'd like to start my own amateur sports team. How should I go about it?

First, make sure you have a proper team. In baseball you need nine, but I advise a squad of 15 because you never know what people’s schedules may be over the course of a season. If you’re short a few players, don’t worry -- most leagues have a draft. What happens is individual players express a desire to play, so the league assesses their skill level and offers them up to both existing and new teams.

Also, make sure that your team manager has an assistant. I’ve noticed that managers often become overwhelmed without a co-manager, particularly when they’re busy playing.

Once you have a team in place, contact the national organization that governs your sport, in order to find out which regional league to join and what the process is. Sometimes, depending on the sport, there is more than one body to choose from. In baseball, we have the National Adult Baseball Association (NABA) and the Men’s Senior Baseball League (MSLB). Both have teams at various skill levels, but there are differences -- for example, the MSLB uses metal bats, while NABA uses wood.

The first thing a league will ask about is your skill level. In the NABA, we grade teams from Rookie on up -- through A, then Double A, Triple A and up to Elite, where you’ll find the college players who are just trying to keep fit through the summer.

There are costs involved. To enter the San Francisco NABA league, a team must pay $4,500 for a 20-game season, which pays for the fields, the umpires and the baseballs. On top of that, each team needs to provide its own uniforms and apparel. (A lot of teams find corporate sponsorship to pay their costs and get free uniforms.)

It’s worth bearing in mind the cost of insurance too. Most leagues automatically provide catastrophic coverage, but the deductible is often as high as $5,000. We advise that each player have personal health insurance in case of injury.

Finally, your team needs a name! Be creative, but keep it clean. We had a team called The Dirtbags once, and that was fine, but there are lines you can’t cross. I think you know what they are.

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Mac Clonan

Mac Clonan is the director of the San Francisco National Adult Baseball Association.

I've been seeing ads for shoes that will help me build muscle just by walking in them. Sounds too good to be true. Is it?

In a word, yes. You probably won’t do any harm to your body by walking in them, but you probably won’t do that much good either. I have a client who wore them for six months before she came to me. She saw no difference in her butt. Once she started working out her hamstrings and doing squats, abductions and kickbacks, all of that changed.

Which is to say: When it comes to getting in shape, nothing really replaces a proper diet and exercise. In my many years as a personal trainer, I’ve seen gimmicks galore -- BOSU balls with handles, Ab Masters, you name it. The benefits are not even close to what you get from hitting the gym.

When it comes to workout shoes, the best ones are not platforms, but act as a very light shock absorber -- that’s all. Your body needs to register the surface it is on, whether dirt, pavement or grass; it will automatically adapt. And a word to the wise: You definitely don’t want to wear these platform-style shoes for running. You’ll be asking for an injury.

If you’ve already got a pair just for walking around town and feel like they’re doing something for you, go for it. It’s certainly not going to be detrimental. I think there’s also a psychosomatic component here. But there has been no real solid evidence that they do work -- at least not from any resources that I respect.

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Todd Alexander
Todd Alexander is a New York City­-based holistic health counselor, fitness expert and nutritional adviser, certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners as well as CHEK HLC Practitioners. He holds personal training certificates from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE). His specialties include weight loss, body shaping and toning, cardiovascular fitness, and pre- and post-natal conditioning and rehabilitation.

What are the rules for a wannabe stylish guy when it comes to wearing white before Memorial Day?

It’s not about Memorial Day as much as it is about the temperature.

White shoes should only be worn in warm weather. You can pair them with cuffed chinos and a white or light-colored crew or V-neck T-shirt -- simple is what you want with this look.

White pants are also a warm-weather-only item. Go with a lightweight fabric (like lightweight denim) and break it up with a striped shirt. Pair with loafers, white shoes or sneakers. But keep in mind that this look is only for the most fashion-forward; very few guys can get away with it.

White shirts can be worn any time of year, as long as you match the fabric to the climate. On a hot day, wearing a white linen shirt keeps you cool. Although linen wrinkles easily, there’s no need to iron -- the rumpled look is what you’re going for here. In colder temps, try white flannel as a way to be both stylish and warm. White cotton shirts can be worn year-round.

For a warm-weather casual look, throw an untucked and unbuttoned white shirt over a T-shirt and pair it with jeans or chinos. For a more formal look, wear a white collared shirt buttoned all the way up with lightweight slacks.

In the end, there’s no real formula. Just try it on and see what feels right. However, it’s best to avoid wearing all white -- unless you’re living in a tropical beach house.

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Colin Lynch
Colin Lynch is the Soho manager of Odin, a high-end men’s clothing boutique in New York City.

I've got some serious shaving bumps. How do I fix them?

Shaving bumps (aka ingrown hairs) can be very troublesome, especially for the African-American shaver. They occur because the hair curls as it grows out of the skin, resulting in the hair getting stuck under the skin line.

The good news? For any shaving challenge, there is always a solution. The tried-and-true approach to ridding your face -- or any other shaved area -- of annoying shaving bumps is learning the proper way to shave. Once you adopt a good routine, shaving bumps will be a distant memory. But don’t fear, there is no need to suffer with bumps while you master your new shaving process. There are ways to start erasing the signs of existing bumps immediately.

The best way to get rid of ingrown hairs that have already formed is to gently pull the tip of the hair out of the bump or swollen area. Make sure to use a sterilized needle, a set of tweezers or even a safety pin. Start by running the needle or tweezers through the flame of a match or lighter a few times to kill any potential bacteria. Then, and this is crucial, be careful to not remove the hair entirely -- only take out the tip from the bump. Why? The reason the hair is stuck in the first place is because it was growing below the skin’s surface. Pulling the hair out entirely will only cause the hair to start regrowing from below the surface again, resulting in the same problem. Whenever an ingrown hair bump starts to develop, pull the hair out of the bump but keep it intact; this ensures that the hair will get cut during your next shave, and the cycle will not repeat. 

Incorporating this method of ingrown hair removal into a daily or weekly maintenance routine will allow for greater control of the face’s overall appearance -- and a permanent end to shaving bumps.

More about shaving from our sponsor.

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About the Expert

Craig the Barber
Craig the Barber is a licensed professional barber and men’s grooming expert, and a frequent contributor to Men’s Life Today. He owns the Los Angeles–based grooming service The Grooming Concierge, serves as a contributor to national magazines and television shows, and is the editor in chief of the daily blog The Men’s Room.

Is there any way to prevent the flu when the seasons change?

The best way to prevent the flu is to get the flu shot. The CDC recommends that everyone older than 6 months of age receive the vaccine -- so I’d assume that includes you. Since the flu bug is most active in colder months, the best time to get immunized is in the fall; it protects you throughout the entire year, so you’ll be covered when spring hits. But you can still do it now.

If you’re totally needle-averse, here are some other ways to stave off the flu:

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Don’t touch your eyes and nose, since this is how the virus spreads.
  • The flu can stay active on objects such as exercise equipment, so never touch your eyes and nose at the gym, and always clean off the apparatus before and after using.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing.
  • And (hello!) avoid people with the flu or with flu-like symptoms.

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Wayne Guerra is a physician who directs a medical board that reviews more than 500,000 emergency department visits a year. He also developed the smartphone app iTriage, which includes a symptom checker and healthcare databases.

My accountant charged me $350 to do my taxes this year. How can I organize myself now so I can do it myself next April?

If you’re looking to maximize your tax return potential, it’s always best to utilize the expertise of a tax professional. But if you’re determined to go it on your own, the keys are staying on top of your finances and knowing which documents to keep and leverage for maximum deduction potential.

First: Get a good tax software program.
Try TurboTax from Intuit. It can handle all the forms you’re going to work with.

Second: Get ahead of the game and start organizing your records before the end of the year.
If you’ve switched jobs, make sure you have your Social Security tax withheld from both. You don’t want the IRS poking around and potentially turning other stones you’d rather leave unturned. If you had a child during the year, get him or her a Social Security number right away; you’ll need it to file your return, and you don’t want to be scrambling at the end of the year. If you’ve moved to another part of the country for a job, collect all the expenses you incurred for the move. Your apartment search, travel and storage could all be deductable. Make sure to put those expenses on your credit card so you can easily identify them on year-end statements.

Third: Use your Outlook (or a similar appointment program) to keep track of your business dinners, travel expenses and work-related costs.
This is a great way to track all those dinners, taxi rides and other expenses for meetings in and out of town. The receipts for these events are important, but the reason for them is more important. You must have a record of these events: Who was there? What was discussed? Why did you go? Have solid records, and you’ll never have to worry about an audit.

Fourth: Show what a giving guy you are.
The U.S. Treasury wants to have a statement from each charity, religious institution, etc., to which you made a contribution, as well as proof of payments to nonprofits such as museums and universities. Organize them and draw up an itemized list of your total amount of contributions for the year.

Fifth: Keep track of any special costs incurred for your job.
If you’re a mechanic, your tools are deductable. If you’re a model, your hair and makeup costs might be. However, membership to a gym or that treadmill you purchased are not -- unless you’re looking to enter a UFC smackdown.

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John R. Lieberman is a certified public accountant and personal financial specialist with New York City accounting firm Perelson Weiner. He has been on most major networks, as well as on “The Daily Show,” commenting on taxes and financial planning.

I see this cute girl at my coffee shop all the time. I want to talk to her, but can't think of anything to say that wouldn't be totally cheesy. How do you strike up a conversation with a total stranger?

According to the Men’s Life Today Girl Panel™, there’s no tried-and-true pickup line that’ll score the attention of any girl, every time. And if you’re intent on going for a girl who frequents your turf, you definitely don’t want to blow it. So stack the deck in your favor by making your best bet on her type and aiming your strike accordingly. Here are five types of girls you might be pining for, with advice from in-the-flesh examples of each.

The Knockout: You know her when you see her -- and so does every other guy in the shop. Chances are she’s heard every line (at least twice before), so you’ll need something more than a “How you doin’?”

“Casually comment on something in the room (like a stranger’s crazy hair or the fact that we ordered the same drink) to immediately relate to me on the friend level. A more forward, brash approach is all too common and makes it easy to see a guy’s obvious sexual intentions.” -- Molly, 18


The Comedian:
She just ordered a Trenta, straight up -- and asked the barista to make it a double, wink.

“Get in there and get personal with something witty like, ‘Is that your regular drink, [insert teasing name that totally calls me out for ordering it]?’ to show you can play my game and joke around. If I think you’re cute, this will definitely work. If not, better luck next time!” -- Samantha, 21

 

The Socialite: Gabbing away to the posse that surrounds her, she breaks only for breaths, laughs and sips of her light mocha frap.

“Say ‘Oh hey, you dropped this’ and give me your business card (or a napkin with your number).” -- Stacey, 24

 

The Shy Girl: She blushes as she bashfully accepts the espresso she’s been served without mention of the decaf herbal tea she’d actually ordered.

“The worst thing you can do -- besides using a ‘line’ -- is start off by complimenting my appearance. I’m way more impressed with a ‘Hey, my name is ___,’ maybe followed up with a remark about the situation or location, like, ‘I don’t know about you, but that barista always messes up my order’.” -- Michelle, 26

 

The Quirky Cutie: Headphones blaring, she’s nestled in her regular spot, rockin’ out to the beat of her own hums. She changes her order as often as her nail polish color (daily).

“Walk over and say something -- anything. But if you pull out any premeditated ‘lines,’ my fake radar will go off and I’ll resent you for ruining my private coffee/tea/music time. Just being yourself works -- and if it’s meant to be, you’ll catch my attention.” -- Natalia, 25

 

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The Men’s Life Today Girl Panel™ is a selection of real women who offer honest advice.

I think my skin is getting darker from shaving. Why does this happen and how can I prevent it?

First off, you are not alone. Shaving, whether with a razor or an electric shaver, can lead to skin discoloration. It happens when the rubbing or scraping action of the blades results in minor cuts to the skin, which in turn causes hyperpigmentation -- the skin’s way of replacing color to the damaged area.

The good news is that this darkening effect can be prevented with just a few easy steps:

1. Prep well.
When wet-shaving, make sure to follow the necessary steps for prepping the skin, which will greatly reduce any nicks. (For more on how to prep your skin for shaving, check out “Shaving: Secrets Dad Never Told You ”)

2. Avoid shaving against the grain.
This practice will not only cause irritation, but also nicks to the skin in some cases, which result in the hair being pulled and snagged instead of cut. When this happens, your skin enters damage-control mode -- and the signs of hyperpigmentation begin.

3. Exfoliate.
The act of exfoliating gently removes the dead skin cells to free up younger and healthier layers of cells that are working their way to the surface. A skin-exfoliating regimen twice a week (a day or two after shaving) will show fantastic results.

One more thing: Bear in mind that it will take time for your skin to lighten. Patience is the key for all three of these steps to produce results. Trust me: If it worked for me, it will for you!

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Craig the Barber
Craig the Barber is a licensed professional barber and men’s grooming expert, and a frequent contributor to Men’s Life Today. He owns the Los Angeles–based grooming service The Grooming Concierge, serves as a contributor to national magazines and television shows, and is the editor in chief of the daily blog The Men’s Room.

My girlfriend just lost her job, and now she wants to move in with me to save rent. I really like her, but I'm not ready to cohabitate. How do I keep her in my life, but not in my house?

My best advice is to gently communicate your feelings to her. Because she will already be feeling down about losing her job, it’s important to acknowledge her request and discuss a plan for the future. The absolute worst option is to ignore it.

If you value the relationship, reduce her disappointment by taking these three steps. First, compliment her sincerely. Tell her how she makes you feel and why she is wonderful. If you’re not genuine in your delivery, this can backfire, so focus on your tone and body language. (Hold her hands, look into her eyes, kiss and hug her.)

Second, tell her why you’re not ready to move in together. Make it about you rather than her. For example, you might say, “My life is not together enough,” or “I need more time.”

The last step is to share what you see in the future as a couple. If you can’t imagine moving in together eventually, then you probably shouldn’t be dating. Be honest, and you’ll save each other a lot of time and heartache. If you can both picture yourselves living together one day, then the two of you should set future goals (get jobs, save money) and a check-in time (a year, for example). You want to both walk away feeling good about the outcome.

This conversation will also help you decide if you’ve found someone with great love potential. If the discussion is genuine, honest and balanced, you’re in the zone. Address the issue using these three steps, and then you’ll be able to move forward closer as a couple (or more honest apart).

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Liz H. Kelly
Liz H. Kelly has worked as a relationship expert for eight years (though she got the nickname “Dr. Liz” as early as high school for giving advice). She puts a new spin on relationships with love lessons from Hollywood movies on greatlifegreatlove.com.

I'm seeing magnetic bracelets everywhere these days. My entire football team is wearing them, and even the pizza guy was sporting one last night! What's the deal? Do they work, and what are they supposed to do, anyway?

These simple plastic bracelets contain a hologram, which is the same thing as the electronic chip in your bank card. For a good year we’ve seen these bracelets become more and more popular, essentially in endurance sports. The last Tour de France gave them huge publicity since a lot of cyclists were wearing them.

The packaging states that the hologram is programmed to give the athlete an increase in power, force and balance. Of course, the manufacturers say they work. And financially, they do, since they cost only two euros to make and sell for more than 30 euros.

Specialists in physiology of effort, physical therapists and osteopaths specialized in sport have all tested athletes with the bracelets. The result? No effect on balance, no increase in power or in force. (Australia has very recently banned ads for the bracelets since there’s no scientific proof to back them up.)

That said, you need to keep in mind the placebo effect. The power of “suggestion” or “belief” (whatever you want to call it) has been medically proven. If the bracelet were sold for only a few euros, the result wouldn’t be the same. It’s like strawberries: The more expensive they are, the better they taste! Plus, a bracelet makes the wearer feel part of a group -- I think that’s why we see more and more non-athletes wearing them. On the other hand, we’re already seeing fewer of them among high-level athletes.

At the very least, they won’t do you any harm -- except to your wallet. I tell my patients that if the bracelets don’t work for them, they can always offer them to their girlfriends!

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Jean-Jaques Menuet has been a sports doctor and nutritionist for more than 20 years. He also works as the doctor for the professional cycling team Saur-Sojasun. His experiences and those of his patients can be found on medecinedusportconseils.com.

I've heard that you shouldn't eat carbs after 4:00 p.m. if you want to lose weight. Is this true?

First of all, carbohydrates do not make you fat; excess calories make you fat.Carbohydrates are often associated with weight gain since a lot of them are processed. Unlike unprocessed carbs, the processed kind don’t make you feel full, which consequently makes you more likely to overeat. For example, whole-grain bread and white bread have the same amount of calories, but whole-grain bread is more filling -- and it makes you feel satisfied longer. What you want to do is eat in moderation overall, regardless of what part of the day it is.

So, trendy low-carb diets aside, not eating carbs after 4:00 p.m. really isn’t effective weight loss advice. Weight loss and weight gain basically come down to calories in versus calories out; if you eat more calories than your body burns in a given day, you will gain weight -- and if your body burns more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. With this in mind, a well-balanced diet that includes vegetables, fruit, lean meats, whole grains and healthy fats can generally be eaten well past 4:00 p.m. without it sinking your weight loss goals. As long as you’re consuming fewer calories than you’re burning, you will still lose weight.

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Dr. Beau Boshers
Dr. Beau Boshers is based out of PGA Medical Center in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He emphasizes preventative health care by offering medically supervised weight loss programs and nutrition and exercise counseling.

I excel in a lot of different sports and love to play them all. I don't know if I want to try to go pro. If so, do I have to focus on one, and at what point? I'm a junior in high school.

These days, most pro athletes have selected their sport by the time they’re high school sophomores or juniors. That means they stop training in other sports and focus on one for the entire last year or two before college. It’s unfortunate, because eliminating other sports at an early age is detrimental to an athlete’s overall development as a person. It certainly wasn’t like that 10 years ago. But times change, and now athletes have to make career decisions at a young age. There’s no simple guide to this kind of thing. These are life choices, and life is difficult! 

Firstly, don’t think about the pro career so much -- focus on the college career. A very small percentage of college players will manage to turn pro, but college scholarships are lucrative in their own right, and school is expensive. Take things one step at a time.

Before eliminating any other sports, be as certain as possible that you have what it takes to make it in college. Once you give up a sport, it is very difficult to go back and be successful.

Next, take an honest look at your skills and your body type. At the age of 17, it can be difficult to tell how big or strong you’re going to be, or even what your interests will be in two or three years’ time. But these are key issues. Football players are getting bigger and stronger, and basketball players are getting taller. So your build may dictate your best option. If you’re an average-sized athlete, your opportunities may be greater in baseball, track or soccer. 

Bear in mind that football is the cash cow at college -- it generates the revenue that pays for all the other sports. So the odds of getting a scholarship are greater simply because there are more of them available. But football is also a collision sport and carries the greatest risk of injury. Everyone in college football has seen people go through career-ending injuries before they graduate. Other sports, like baseball, don’t carry that level of risk. 

Finally, if you’re going to go for a college scholarship, remember that it can be a very stressful process -- the scouts, the college selection and so on. There are many people out there trying to make money off of young men’s dreams and the dreams of their parents. Be sure to get good information and advice.

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Jerry Dawson
Jerry Dawson has won the National High School Athletic Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year award five times (most recently in 2010) and has been elected to the National High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. At Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., he coached 150 players who advanced to college- and professional-level baseball, three of whom are in the major leagues today. He is currently on the baseball coaching team at Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz.

Help! My girlfriend and I have been invited to our first formal dinner. I haven't got a clue what's expected of me, and I don't want to embarrass her. What do I need to know?

Getting Ready
It’s important to be dressed appropriately. Sometimes an invitation can sound formal, but you may not be required to wear a dinner jacket, so it’s important to establish what the dress code is.

Before you go, buy your host a small gift — some flowers or a nice box of chocolates. For a formal dinner you will not be expected to turn up with a bottle of wine.

The Arrival

Never arrive early and make sure you don’t arrive more than 10 to 15 minutes beyond the invitation time. If you are going to be more than 15 minutes late, you should ring and tell your host that you’ve been delayed and are on your way.

If you’re attending a particularly high-end function or a house that has a butler, don’t engage in small talk with the person who takes your coat or shows you to the room where guests are gathered for cocktails. Once there, you’ll be given a pre-dinner drink, introduced to people and expected to make small talk until dinner is served. Avoid talking about politics, sex or religion and you’ll be fine.

At the Table

Move to the place indicated at the table, but don’t be the first to sit down just in case your host wants to stand to say grace.

Once everyone is seated, your food will be presented to you on the left and your wine on the right. If you don’t want something, just put your hand over the plate or glass. Cutlery is laid out so that the silverware for the first course is on the outside. You work your way in as each course is served.

Eating should be as unobtrusive as possible. Do not talk with your mouth full and if you’re eating something like cherries with stones, gently spit the stones into a spoon and tip them on to a side plate. Soup should be eaten in the same inconspicuous way. Avoid making slurping sounds, and eat the soup moving the spoon from the front to back while tipping the bowl away from you. If you’re served a bread roll, break it into small pieces before buttering and eating. Never ask for second helpings and always wait to be offered more to drink.

You should never leave the table during dinner, except in an emergency. If you do need to leave, then excuse yourself quietly to your neighbours, place your napkin on your chair and excuse yourself again to your hosts as you pass them by, letting them know that you’ll be back shortly.

After the Meal

When the meal is over, the hostess will either invite the ladies to withdraw or everyone to withdraw to a drawing room or another space for coffee and liqueurs. Follow the lead of your host and hostess.

Try not to be the first or last to leave. But if you have to leave for some reason, wait at least half an hour and make your excuses.

The Next Day

Phone to say thank you, but make sure you speak to your host — don’t leave a message on the answering machine or send an email or text message.

You should also write a thank you letter or card. Thank your hosts for a lovely evening and a delicious meal, and tell them you look forward to seeing them again soon.

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Jane Urquhart
Jane Urquhart is the owner of The London Academy and Jane Urquhart Unlimited. For more than 18 years, she has taught social protocol and etiquette to individuals, and trained staffs for hotels, private households, palaces and yachts. You can find her at www.janeurquhartunlimited.com.

I always get ingrown hairs. Should I swap my razor for one of those depilatories?

Well, I wouldn’t give up on shaving so quickly. I’ve personally noticed that once someone has learned the proper way to shave his face with a razor, all irritations typically subside.

Depilatories can be a great hair-removal alternative for some, but I’ve consulted with men who have experienced nightmares with their use, and I’ve also tried my share of them with mixed results. The main concerns are: (1) Can your skin handle the aggressive nature of these products, and (2) Can you wait two to three days for your face to heal before you are able to use them again? 

In short, since everyone’s face has different sensitivities, I feel that it’s much easier to control a razor’s cutting ability rather than depend on the effectiveness of a chemical. The skin quality (oily vs. dry) can also play a role in the success of a depilatory. Unfortunately, finding out whether it will work with your skin could result in an increased level of skin sensitivity. My suggestion is to practice proper shaving techniques, buy a good razor and shaving cream or gel, and give that razor another try before going down an alternate route.

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Craig the Barber
Craig the Barber is a licensed professional barber and men’s grooming expert, and a frequent contributor to Men’s Life Today. He owns the Los Angeles–based grooming service The Grooming Concierge, serves as a contributor to national magazines and television shows, and is the editor in chief of the daily blog The Men’s Room.

Even though I've just entered the job market, I'm worried about my future. How can I make sure I'll be financially secure when I eventually retire -- or if something unexpected happens to me in the meantime?

Creating a comprehensive financial plan for someone requires an in-depth analysis of their individual circumstances. However, there are some basic building blocks you can put in place that will help put you on the path to financial security.

Preparation
Start by taking a detailed look at your income and expenses so that you can develop a clear picture of your cost of living and how much of your income you’ll be able to allocate to savings and discretionary spending. One of the first steps you can take toward financial freedom is to build an emergency fund that you can dip into if and when the unexpected happens. Try to create a cash cushion of six months worth of living expenses.

Debt

Most young people have accumulated some debt by the time they get their careers underway. It takes self-discipline, but I would encourage you to aim to be debt free as soon as possible. Pay down loans with compounding interest -- such as credit cards -- first, then work on bank overdrafts and finally, student loans. Although interest accrues on student loans, they are relatively inexpensive and payments are not required for as long as your income doesn’t meet or exceed the repayment threshold. 

Protecting Your Income
Once you begin producing a revenue stream, it’s a good idea to protect those earnings with income protection and/or critical illness insurance plans. Income protection insurance will pay you a monthly sum if you’re unable to work due to an accident or long-term illness. A critical illness plan pays a tax-free lump sum if you’re diagnosed with a condition that is covered by the policy.

Retirement Planning
Beginning in 2012 the government has directed companies to automatically enrol their employees into state-approved pension schemes. This pension will provide you with some income when you reach retirement age, but almost certainly not enough to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. I recommend investing a minimum of 10 percent of your income into a good quality pension scheme. That said, pensions are not the be all and end all of retirement preparation. Diversification is the key, and pensions should form part of a larger, professionally directed, investment portfolio.

Professional Advice
The Personal Finance Society is a professional body for financial advisors. Their website, www.findanadvisor.org, provides access to free information about financial planning and a nationwide database of experienced financial planners. 

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Stephen Baker
Stephen Baker has been a professional financial advisor for more than 20 years and is the Managing Director of Stephen Baker Financial Consultants Ltd. based in Oving, Buckinghamshire. 

I just got an offer for my dream job from another company. I’ve been at my current job for eight months. Can I take the new job without burning bridges at the old one?

The fact that you’re even asking this question tells me your current employer is losing a very thoughtful team member. I’ve been on both sides of this equation, and the reality is, if you’ve truly found your dream job, you’d be a fool not to accept it. Fortunately, since you’ve been with your present company for less than a year, you probably haven’t achieved indispensable status yet. Your departure may actually cause less disruption than you imagine.

Before you give notice, be sure you’ve got a solid offer and start date in writing. The last thing you want to do is quit before the new position is firmly in hand. Once you’ve established that the dream job is a lock, tender your resignation with as much professionalism as possible. Were you recruited? Don’t be afraid to say so, letting your boss know you weren’t actively looking. Be polite and professional, thanking him or her for the opportunities you’ve had during the past eight months. Don’t be afraid to share your belief that the job you’re accepting is the sort of opportunity that comes around just once.

Provide at least two weeks’ notice if possible, and when you depart, leave all of your files in order so the person who assumes your job will know what’s what.

With any luck, you’ll leave on good terms. (You never know when you might need a reference from your old boss down the line.) If, on the other hand, el jefe tells you to pack your desk and evacuate the building, don’t take it personally. Business is business, and chances are he’s simply following company policy. Not to mention that, deep down, the boss man would have done the exact same thing if he were in your shoes.

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Thomas P. Farley
Nice guy Thomas P. Farley is the creator of the blog What Manners Most, the nightlife correspondent for “Citybuzz” (seen on JetBlue and Continental Airlines flights nationwide) and the host of the Web television show “New York Insider TV.” He is a regular feature writer for Men’s Life Today, and you can follow him @mistermanners and @newyorkinsider.

I love tobogganing, but I’ve never won a race. How can I be the fastest on the slopes this year?

Beginners tend to know only one goal: maximum speed. The fact is, most races are won not by the fastest driver but by the cleverest. You need to concentrate on the turns of your slope, since braking correctly on the turns can win you precious seconds. On the straights, in contrast, it’s hard to accelerate any more than your competitors; you can only lie still on the sledge to preserve your speed. Therefore the key is retaining as much speed in the turns as possible.

So how do you do that? First, don’t brake too late -- otherwise you’ll lose time regaining control over your sledge. Second, brake with the heels of both feet. In professional races we wear special shoes with spikes on the heels, but you can use average alpine boots with a tough rubber sole. Just don’t wear sneakers or jogging shoes, since they won’t protect your ankles.

When you start breaking, simultaneously press your outer foot (the one on the outside of the turn) against the skid. Lift the inner skid with the rope of your sledge. And move your body toward the inner side of the turn -- you’ll never drive a perfect turn without correctly shifting the weight.

If you want to train yourself professionally, work on your core. As a tobogganist you need strong chest, back and abdominal muscles, since you are exposed to intensive centrifugal forces in the turns. Another good tip is to visit the slope beforehand. Check out the different turns, try to find a perfect racing line and, most important, memorize the dangerous spots.

Now, a word about equipment: Don’t buy one of those 20-euro sleds you see in supermarkets. They’re too heavy, they’re hard to steer and they’re uncomfortable. Instead, choose a leisure or sports sledge sold in sports stores and good online shops. My favorite is the “GL Rodelbau” (www.gl-rodel.de ). You will pay upwards of 150 euro -- but if you’re serious about tobogganing, it’s worth the investment.

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About the Expert: Georg Maurer, einer der besten Profirodler in Deutschland, ist ein Experte auf Naturbahnen. Der 27-jährige Athlet aus dem bayerischen Bad Feilnach schaffte es bei der Weltmeisterschaft 2011 im Naturbahnrodeln als bester Deutscher auf Rang zwölf. In der WM-Teamwertung war für Maurer im Ötztal (Österreich) sogar der sechste Rang drin.

I’ve been invited on a ski trip. I’ve never skied before, and I don’t want to invest in a bunch of clothing and equipment I may never use again if I don’t like it. What’s the minimum I can get away with buying?

If you’re a total beginner, you’re going to want to rent skis, poles and boots. Often, they can be part of a bargain package at a resort, where you may also get some training. (After that experience, if you want to keep skiing, you should buy your own boots, at the very least -- your skiing won’t be nearly as efficient or athletic without properly fitting boots.)

Good equipment is one thing, but staying warm on the slopes is paramount to having fun. Remember, there are likely to be long periods of time on the ski lift when your body is not skiing -- and therefore not generating heat -- and can be exposed to cold winds.

Start with outdoor long underwear that wicks away moisture and regulates temperature (such as Capilene by Patagonia) along with a thin but warm alpine skiing sock (try Eurosock). For a less expensive option, go to Campmor or Sierra Trading Club on the Web and search for performance socks and long underwear. Make sure they’re both performance-grade -- standard socks and long underwear can make you feel damp and cold after sweating, which you will definitely be doing a lot of.

Follow that with an inner down or fleece layer (fleece is cheaper) and an outer layer (pants and ski coat) made of GORE-TEX. Yes, GORE-TEX will cost more, but is generally worth the investment because it’s snowproof and windproof, and it regulates temperature well. Patagonia, The North Face, Marker, Cloudveil and others all make excellent ski wear. If GORE-TEX is simply too much for your budget, you can try HyVent from The North Face, which may halve the price. Other options are Triple Point and eVent. If you’re on a serious budget, you can make do with a water-resistant nylon jacket.

Finally, you’ll need gloves with an inner liner and a waterproof outer (again, GORE-TEX is best), or even a ski mitten with fingers inside and a mitten outside for extra warmth. For your head, rent a helmet (now mandatory on most slopes) that comes not only lined, but also with goggles. You may also want to buy a ski beanie for when you’re not wearing your helmet.


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Jenny Fellows
Jenny Fellows is co-director of the North American Ski Training Center (NASTC), in Truckee, Calif. (SkiNASTC.com). She’s also a former collegiate ski racer and a level II ski instructor.

Does the number of blades in my razor have anything to do with getting shaving bumps?

I believe there is a razor for everyone, whether you have a light, medium or tough beard. The benefit of multiple-blade razors is that you can choose the number that best suits your beard growth. Simply put, fewer blades likely work best for lighter beards; if you have a tougher beard, you'll likely want more. Once that has been determined, you simply need to learn the best way to shave your face to achieve the desired outcome.

African American men, who are susceptible to getting shaving bumps (aka ingrown hairs), should shave with the grain at all times. The first step in conquering this challenge is to learn which direction the hair on your face grows in. Keep in mind the hair will grow in different directions in different areas of your face (i.e., it may grow up on the cheeks and down on the chin --- every face is unique). Once you take note of how your hair grows, you’ll be able to avoid shaving against the grain. The less frequently you shave against the grain and the better your beard is prepped for shaving (the keys are a clean face, warm water, and moisture), the better your face will look and feel.

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Craig the Barber
Craig the Barber is a licensed professional barber and men’s grooming expert, and a frequent contributor to Men’s Life Today. He owns the Los Angeles–based grooming service The Grooming Concierge, serves as a contributor to national magazines and television shows, and is the editor in chief of the daily blog The Men’s Room.

I can't afford the jacked-up prices restaurants charge on Valentine's Day. What's a simple yet romantic dinner I can make for my girlfriend at home?

I recommend halibut poached in olive oil, served with vegetables and a cucumber salad. This dish is elegant, healthy and looks lovely on the plate. Even better: It's very difficult to get wrong. The ingredients are easy to find, and you can even do a whole chunk of it in advance to take the pressure off. 

First, you’ll need to blanch the vegetables. Get equal portions of broccoli florets, cauliflower and green beans, and boil them until tender in salted water -- 3 or 4 minutes maximum. Then drain them in a colander and put them directly into an icebox. That'll stop them from cooking further. You can do this hours beforehand. 

Now for the fish. You’ll need two 6-ounce pieces of halibut -- skin off, center cut. (The fishmonger will do all that for you.) Fill a pan about half a finger deep with olive oil, throw some herbs in there -- tarragon, chervil and parsley stems work well -- and heat it on low for a few minutes. When it's hot but not scalding (i.e., when you can still put your finger in it), submerge the fish and leave it for about 6 minutes. If your fish is more than an inch thick, leave it a couple of more minutes. And that's it! It’s impossible to overcook, and the fish comes out nice and moist. You can check if it's done by sticking a skewer into the flesh -- it should go in easily. If it's still firm, then just give it another minute. And if you can’t find halibut, you can substitute albacore tuna or salmon. 

A few minutes before the fish is done, it's time to finish off the vegetables. Heat some chopped shallots in olive oil until they're soft, then add the blanched vegetables and a dash of salt and pepper. In a few minutes, they'll be good to go. If you can find verjus (an acidic juice made from unripe grapes) in your local supermarket, drizzle it over the top just before you take it off the heat. If not, you can use rice wine vinegar. Either way, go easy. Drizzle -- don’t drench! 

This is a dish that's easy to arrange on the plate, restaurant-style. First, arrange the vegetables in a layer on the plate and cover them with some freshly torn herbs -- the same kind you put in the olive oil earlier. Drain the oil from the fish, pat it with kitchen towels and then place it on top of the vegetables. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the top and sprinkle with some chopped chives. Then place some chopped cucumber in thin slices over the top of the fish. Finally: a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a dash of salt.

A quick, easy and super-romantic dessert is strawberries dipped in chocolate. The day before, melt a couple of high-quality dark chocolate bars in a saucepan, dip the strawberries halfway, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and store in the refrigerator. If you want to go more decadent, I recommend buying a chocolate panna cotta. It’s complicated to make, and there’s really no need to keep impressing her with your kitchen skills -- she’ll be blown away by this stage anyway.

For more tips check out The Style Glossy's "Romantic Dinner for Two," by aphrodisiac-food authority Amy Reily.

Once your Valentine’s Day menu is ready, read on to make sure you are ready for the big night:

Shaving: Secrets Dad Never Told You

Be Product-ive With Your Hair

Manscape: The Art of the Body Shave

Eyebrow Grooming for Men

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About the Expert

Nathalie Ruffat-Westling is a culinary consultant through Simply in Food (www.simplyinfood.com) and the author of food blog Les Cuisines de Garance (www.lescuisinesdegarance.com), which receives more than 50,000 hits daily. She is passionate about healthy and natural cooking.

I've heard some people barbecue outdoors in the winter. I'm having friends over and want to try it -- how does it work?

Grilling in the winter means more beef! Why, you ask? It has to do with the methodology, which is completely different than it is for summer grilling. In the summer, people tend to grill directly over the embers. It’s faster, but requires regularly turning whatever you’re grilling so it doesn’t turn into pieces of charcoal.

In the winter, standing at the grill like that would turn you into a human icicle. So the methodology used is “indirect” grilling. This requires filling the sides of the trough with coal (avoiding the center, under the meat) and closing the cover. Now your grill will work like an oven with circulating air, and the food won’t become too hot. Consequently, you can cook bigger pieces of meat, like roast beef, pork loin or even an entire turkey.

Since the preparation time is longer -- I’m talking an hour or two -- you can relax inside while your meal cooks on the grill. But how do you know when the food is ready? Buy a grill thermometer with a needle (you can find one online for 20 euro) and check the temperature in the core of the meat. Medium-cooked beef should be 60° to 63°C, while pork and chicken should be at least 73° due to the risk of salmonellae. Just don’t let the temperature go above 80°, or you’ll dry out the meat. My personal preference is radio-controlled thermometers -- they inform you automatically when the programmed temperature is reached.

I am often asked whether I use coal or gas. Neither influences the taste, so choose whichever one works best for you. Only avoid electrical grills, since it could be wet outside. And speaking of safety, be sure to wear warm clothes to avoid frostbite, but never wear wool gloves -- they can easily catch fire. Ditto for long scarves and woolly hats. Invest in uninflammable gloves and place the grill in a wind-sheltered corner.

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Frank Huhnke
Frank Huhnke ist der aktuelle deutsche Meister im Grillen. Der aus Friedrichroda stammende Thüringer schmeißt seinen Grill schon morgens an, um Frühstück zu machen und grillt sogar Weihnachtsgebäck, statt es im Ofen zu backen.

Ever since I left home, my clothes have looked dull and wrinkled. I don't have a ton of extra money to spend on dry cleaners. How can I do my own laundry and keep my clothes looking sharp?

General Preparation
It’s obviously more cost-effective to wash a full load of laundry, but never be tempted to mix colour or sensitivity categories to make up your load; you could end up ruining garments that will be expensive to replace. Instead, separate your clothing into three colour groups: whites, mid-colours (greys and pastel shades) and darks. Also, separate garments that need a gentle or hand wash, such as jumpers (as opposed to garments that can withstand a more vigorous machine wash).

Stains
Common stains like red wine or pasta sauce should be flushed through with cold water as soon as possible. Always blot and never rub a stain — you can smear it into the fabric and damage cottons and silks. There are many good stain-removing products on the market, so try experimenting and find one that works for you. You can also use washing-up liquid as an inexpensive degreasing agent to pre-treat things like soiled cuffs and collars.

The Wash

Before you do anything, make sure you’re familiar with the machine you’re using. If it has variable controls you’ll be able to dictate the temperature and the spin cycle. Try to wash items at an appropriate temperature. Jeans, for example, wash very well at 40 degrees, but modern detergents are effective at colder temperatures and washing items like T-shirts on a gentle/cold setting will help preserve them. Always check clothing labels, making note of any special instructions, and never overload your machine because dirt will simply be re-deposited on your clothing. In fact, using a fabric softener with a reduced load, on a light spin cycle, will help diminish creasing and minimise the need for ironing.

Drying

Most items will dry well either on the washing line or in a tumble dryer. Again, pay close attention to garment labels and the required tumble dryer temperature settings.

Storage

Hanging items like jackets, trousers and knitwear will help keep them looking pristine. If they are damp, let them dry naturally. Never drape them over a radiator or leave them in direct sunlight. Other items should be folded and stored in a cool, dry environment to help preserve their shape and freshness.

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George Brown

George Brown is the retail services manager at the Swiss Laundry in Cambridge, and has more than ten years of experience in the commercial dry cleaning and laundry industry.

I'm thinking of throwing a Super Bowl party, but half my friends are really into the game while the other half just want to party. How do I please them all?

First off, make sure the two halves are separated; serious football fans want to watch the game, and they don’t like it when they’re surrounded by people who just want to party. Put the football crowd in the main room with the big screen, and everyone else in the kitchen or dining room area, where the food is laid out. But remember to set up a TV near the food too. That way, the partiers don’t miss anything, and when the game people come in to make themselves a plate, they don’t have to rush.

It works well if the food is all grab-and-go -- burgers, chili, mini-sandwiches. Don’t put out anything you need to cut. Sometimes the teams will give you a food theme: This year, you could lay out cheese trays for Green Bay and serve Roethlis-Burgers (named after Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger) for Pittsburgh!

You can also give the display a football theme. Get a brand new helmet, turn it upside down and fill it with chips so they are literally pouring out. You can make a football-themed tray by getting four footballs -- from the Super Bowl finalists of course -- and fixing them on the table in a square. Then put a clear Plexiglass tray on top, so you can see the balls underneath. Now fill it with sandwiches!

For drinks, use those small Gatorade bottles so people feel like they’re at a tailgate party. Use table linen in football colors. Encourage people to come dressed in football jerseys.

Finally, you might want to arrange for a pizza to be delivered just as the half-time show starts, since this is when both halves of the party can come together.

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Randi Lesnick

Randi Lesnick, from Nashville, La., is one of the best-known party organizers in the South. Her clients include Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Shania Twain, Sandra Bullock and Miley Cyrus. Find her at RandiLesnick.com.

I've noticed that winter weather conditions dry out my scalp. What can I do to prevent dandruff?

There are many winter-related factors that contribute to a dry scalp. Indoor heating tends to remove oxygen and moisture from the air; in other words, not only is the outside air less moist, but so is the inside air. In addition to the low humidity winter brings, many of us change our daily routines as the temperature drops, consuming more fat, eating more and sleeping a little longer. These modifications affect our bodies and our circulation too. And one of the first places we see the effects of these changes is on our face and scalp.

The first thing I recommend to treat a scalp condition is changing your routine. Whatever you’re doing now, do the opposite. If you shampoo a lot, shampoo less. And vice versa. If you shampoo in the morning, shampoo in the evening.

Aloe vera oil massaged into the scalp works wonders in fighting dryness -- it contains every vitamin you can think of, plus essential fatty acids. Do it right before you go to the gym or out for a run, because the heat your body generates as you work out will help the aloe vera penetrate.

After you’ve showered, avoid using a blow-dryer and opt for a towel-dry instead. And for products, try shea butter, a pomade with essential oils or a leave-in conditioner. Another moisture-rich product you can use is olive oil. Just don’t put so much on that your hair looks greasy!

At night, massage your scalp in a circular motion, which will help increase blood flow, which will in turn combat dryness. Comb your hair daily too.

Finally, note that severe flaking is not necessarily a symptom of a dry scalp. What you’re experiencing in this case is most likely caused by a fungus. There are medicated shampoos (prescription and over-the-counter) that you can use, or you can try tea tree oil, which is both antifungal and antibacterial. Add 12 drops of oil to an 8-ounce bottle of shampoo. Alternatively, you can try rinsing the hair with apple cider vinegar before shampooing. The vinegar has a cleansing effect on the scalp. It does have a strong odor, though, so be sure to wash it out thoroughly.

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Mordechai Alvow

Mordechai Alvow is a stylist and New York City salon owner with more than twenty years of experience with treating hair. His clients include Melania Trump, Naomi Watts and Venus and Serena Williams.

Photo: Vasilios Sfinarolakis

How come the sweat on my hands doesn't smell?

There are two types of sweat glands in the human body: merocrine and apocrine. The perspiration produced by merocrine sweat glands, the kind found in the palms of your hands, doesn’t smell. Apocrine sweat glands are found in the armpit, breast and groin areas. Unlike merocrine sweat glands, they don’t help regulate temperature control, so we don’t know exactly what their functional use is. We do know that when the sweat from the armpits or groin reacts to bacteria on the body -- and bacteria are a normal component of the skin -- it creates an odor. A second factor contributing to this odor is genetics: Apocrine sweat glands release chemicals called pheromones, and some people’s pheromones are stronger-smelling than others. The simple solution to curb these odors, of course, is deodorant and antiperspirant.

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Dr. Seth Forman
Dr. Seth Forman is a dermatologist based in Tampa Bay, Florida.

I want to strengthen my core, but I'm just not a yoga or Pilates kind of guy ... and there's no way I can afford a personal trainer. What can I do at home or at the gym that will give me the same benefits?

Here are three great moves that will strengthen your whole core. They’re simple and they can be done at the gym, or at home if you have a Swiss Ball. Do three sets of 15 reps each, three times a week with at least one day of rest in between.

Lying Leg Raises: Lie down on your back, hands at your sides. Raise feet 1 inch off the ground, keeping your knees slightly bent. Slowly lift your legs to 12 inches off the ground, then lower back to 1 inch off the ground. Repeat, without letting your feet touch the floor in between reps.

Swiss Ball Crunch: Lie down on the ball with your lower back over the center and knees bent so that both feet are flat on ground. Lean back so your torso is nearly parallel to the ground, and then slowly rise up until your torso is almost perpendicular. Repeat.

Supermans: Lie flat on your stomach. Holding both hands and feet straight out like you’re Superman flying, slowly lift hands and feet 6 inches off the ground and then lower to the floor. Repeat.

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michael_sokol

Michael Sokol is a personal fitness trainer nominated three times for Personal Trainer of the Year. He’s also the owner of One-on-One Fitness Personal Training Service.

How long should I wait to shave after getting razor burn?

Razor burn is caused by four things: lack of preparation, shaving against the grain, using a dull razor and not using antiseptic after you shave. If you have razor burn right now, you can take a day or two off. But if you do the following, you shouldn’t get razor burn to begin with:

1. Prep
This is more important than the blade or the cream. Prep your face by steaming it with a hot towel from the microwave, shaving in the shower or shaving after a steam at the gym. However you do it, if you get your beard soft, you'll get a good shave.

2. The Grain
A lot of guys go against the grain. What you're doing is picking up the skin, which gives a good shave, but you’re also picking up the hair follicles, and that’s razor burn. You have to go with the grain or across the grain.

On most guys, the hair grows down, but sometimes it grows up. You have to look at the direction of the beard. If you have curly hair or black hair, then you have a greater challenge: No matter which way you shave, you’re going against the grain. So it's more about preparation. If you can use shaving oil underneath the shaving cream, it will be smoother.

3. The Blade
In any job, you're better off using a sharp tool than a dull one. When you use a sharp razor, you're not pressing down so hard -- so there's less drag. There are a whole bunch of things you can do to make your blade last longer: rinse it out, store it with the blade facing up, even immerse it in baby oil.

4. Antiseptic
Your face is covered in little cuts after you shave -- even if you can't see them, they're there. You've really exfoliated, and any small cut can become infected. Traditionally, I use witch hazel or bay rum. Fewer infections mean less razor burn.

If you still get razor burn, it’s best to treat it right away. Put a cold towel on your face; it will make the skin contract and quiet down the situation. Otherwise, it'll turn into an irritated rash that could last for a couple of days.

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Adrian Wood is a Master Barber and the proprietor of New York City's oldest barber shop. He’s traveled the world with his razor and shears, doing stints in London, Montreal and Bermuda before settling in New York 35 years ago.

I've been dating this girl only a couple of months. I like her a lot and want to get her something for the holidays, but I don't want to freak her out. What's a good gift in this situation?

Women love to be pursued and courted. But at this stage, you should not be spending a large amount of money on a gift. For two reasons: First, if you give her an extravagant item now, you’ll be setting the bar very high, and at a level you might not be able to maintain for long. Second, you might scare her away by appearing to come on too strong. At the beginning of any relationship, there’s a fine line between creepy and romantic.                     

Even though you’ve been dating for only a couple of months, you probably already have some inside jokes between you and have had some interesting discussions about her passions or things you share in common. Think about a gift that ties into those conversations. Something that seems generic, like a book, suddenly becomes thoughtful if it’s on a subject she’s talked about nonstop. For example, if she’s shared with you how she’d love to visit a particular country, get her a travel guide for that country. (This can also be a teaser of next year’s gift … a trip to that destination!)

Another idea is to gift an experience. Chances are she will remember an experience for far longer than a material gift. If she’s a fan of a certain musician, buy tickets to see one of his shows. If she has a favorite sports team, go to one of their games -- and know that you don’t need to buy pricey box seats. If she has a favorite restaurant, take her there, or if it’s too expensive, buy her the restaurant’s cookbook and make her a meal from it.

I encounter many men who get their girlfriends no gift at all because they don’t want to get it wrong. Rather than going that route, when all other ideas escape you, know that ye olde faithful -- flowers and chocolate -- still go a long way.

Above all, women want to know that their men are listening to them. She’ll be more touched if she gets a gift that incorporates something she mentioned to you three weeks ago. This shows you care and will count for a lot. Let’s just hope she hasn’t been talking nonstop about diamonds!

Note from the editor: Wondering what kind of gift she’ll be getting you? Here are some hints from Brilliant Color and Beauty Today’s “The Ultimate Gift Guide for Him” and grooming gift ideas she’s reading at Life and Beauty Weekly and The Style Glossy.

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Andrea Syrtash

Andrea Syrtash is a relationship expert and the author of He’s Just Not Your Type (And That’s a Good Thing). More of her insights, and episodes of her show “On Dating,” can be found on her website, AndreaSyrtash.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AndreaSyrtash.

I’ve heard I should never borrow my girlfriend’s razor. Is that true -- and if so, why?

There’s a clear difference between men’s and women’s razors, since they are customized for the use of their intended owner. They are weighted differently, for one, and the blades are suited to the contours of the body parts for which they were made. Fundamentally, men’s razors are designed to maneuver around the nooks and crannies of a guy’s face -- removing thick hair from a small area -- while women’s razors are designed to gently glide over a wide area of thin hair. So although you’ll get a smooth shave from a woman’s razor, it won’t leave you with that close-shave feeling for very long. If you’re a man and want a decent shave, your best bet is to get a shaver designed for men.

The one thing you never want do is share a razor -- with your girlfriend or anyone else. I can’t tell you how many patients I’ve seen who have transferred rashes and infections by doing that. If you’re going to borrow a razor, make sure it’s not used.

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Dr. Debra Jaliman

Dr. Debra Jaliman is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. She has served as a skin care expert for 20/20, Dateline, Primetime, BBC News, CBS News, CNN, FOX News, the Discovery Channel, Lifetime, NBC News, Oxygen and more. She can be found at DrJaliman.com.

Do I need to worry about my so-called maximum heart rate if I'm reasonably fit?

You get your maximum heart rate (MHR) by subtracting your age from 220. I don’t worry about people going over their MHR because, believe me, they won’t spend a heck of a lot of time there. Plus, you can’t damage a healthy heart by exercising near your max.

What is more important is your resting heart rate -- the number of heart beats in one minute when you’re at complete rest. (It’s best measured just after you wake up in the morning.) For 18- to 25-year-olds, 49 to 55 is in the athletic range, while 56 to 61 is still considered excellent. If it’s above 73, you need to make some lifestyle changes.

But the best indication of your current fitness level -- and the health of your heart -- is your recovery heart rate, or your ability to go from a fast stroke rate to a slow one. Measure your heart rate two minutes after you finish a cardio session. That number is your recovery heart rate. Check it after comparable workouts over time to get a sign of your cardiovascular improvement.

Consider the 20-year-old guy who has a resting heart rate of 64. I'm not trying to get him back to 64 until he wakes up the next morning. But I do want him near his max of 200. As soon as he gets his rate up to around 160 to 180 (doing, say, 60-yard sprints), he keeps it up for a predetermined time and then slows down until it gets down to around 120.

Over a six-week period, his recovery heart rate should improve so that he gets back down to 120 more quickly after working out near his max for that predetermined time. In other words, his heart has become healthier.

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mike_wunsch

Mike Wunsch, CSCS, is director of fitness at Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, Calif.

I'm heading to the town centre on Saturday night, but the rise in violent crime makes me nervous. How can I make sure I don't get picked on?

Stay Aware
You can prevent most violent attacks simply by being aware of what is going on around you and avoiding potential trouble. Keep your mind sharp and be on the lookout for unusual movement, people making direct eye contact or people clearly looking for a target.


Be the Grey Man

U.K. Special Forces train their operatives to be the “Grey Man” — the person who goes unnoticed and easily blends into the background. Dress the part for wherever you’re going and stay under the radar of potential attackers.

Deflect Trouble

If you’re approached and challenged, remain calm and walk away if you can. But if you’re faced with someone who is determined to force a confrontation, try to deflect comments and make it harder for them to become physically aggressive. For example, if someone makes direct eye contact with you and asks what you’re looking at, say something like, “Sorry, you look like a friend of mine.”

Escape and Evade

If a physical altercation seems inevitable, always do your best to escape before resorting to a fight. Think about what you can put between you and your attackers. Assess their physical condition; if you’re in better shape you might be able to outrun them. Out on the street, cross the road and put traffic in their way. In a bar or a restaurant, slow them down with whatever is at hand, but stay where there are witnesses and potential assistance. When you’re cornered, use noise and distraction to help get away. Throw a handful of coins at your attacker’s eyes to cause a startle/flinch response. It’s very disorientating and can provide valuable seconds to get out of danger.

Get Professional Help

If you’re deeply concerned about your personal safety, seek out some professional training. Avoid sport martial arts and look for someone who teaches combative self-defence. Krav-Maga and Haganah are both excellent self-defence systems that will give you realistic tools in a short amount of time.

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mark_davis_uk

Mark Davis is the founder of Tactical Edge Close Combat & Personal Protection. He holds black belts and instructor’s credentials in eight different martial arts systems and is a close combat instructor with an element of the U.K. Special Forces.

Does the pre-shave process for body shaving differ from the routine I go through when I blade my face? Also, should I moisturize my body more if I'm going to be shaving it?

Shaving your body might seem a little more intimidating than shaving your face, but the pre-shave process (i.e., hydrating and moisturizing) is pretty much the same.

The first step is to trim excess hair down to about a quarter of an inch with a pair of grooming scissors (this will offer a closer shave and prevent your razor from getting clogged). Next, soften up your skin and hair with plenty of warm water and soap to prevent razor burn and ingrown hairs; shaving at the end of a shower is ideal. Finally, lather on some shaving cream or gel (you can use the same products as you do on your face) and shave with the grain of the hair using short, light strokes.

When you’re done shaving, lock in moisture with a lightweight lotion (just stay away from anything that contains alpha hydroxy or you’ll be in for a bit of a burn).

It’s a myth that you need to use tons of extra moisturizer if you’re going to shave your body -- most shaving creams contain heavy-duty moisturizing ingredients. Plus, now that your skin is hairless, any extra moisturizer that you do apply works overtime because your skin can much more easily absorb it.

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Dr. Jeffrey Benabio

Dr. Jeffrey Benabio, a fellow of the Academy of Dermatology (FAAD), is a clinical dermatologist and skin care expert in San Diego. He founded TheDermBlog.com.

After dieting and exercising for two months, I'm starting to notice real results. I know how to get through the holidays -- choose the healthy items on the table, eat sensible portions, etc. -- but it's a lot easier said than done. How do I make myself actually do it?

The reality is that mistakes will happen over the holidays. If you weigh the same on January 2 as you did before the holidays, you should not feel that you’ve failed. That’s a victory.

The best way to avoid mistakes is to have a plan. Don’t walk into the kitchen or dining room thinking, “What am I going to eat next?” Decide what you want to eat before the meal and don’t forget to write down what you’ve eaten. The simple act of keeping a food diary will help you lose weight.

Telling your family members about your plan of attack will also help. If your family members are always complaining that you eat too much or too little at the holiday table, call them ahead of time and ask them not to bring up the topic this year. If they start with you anyway, gently remind them: “We had this conversation, remember?” That’s very empowering.

Lastly, don’t treat yourself to a huge meal as a reward for sticking to your diet before the holidays. If you want to make a permanent change in your eating habits, you can’t use food as a reward. Instead, find other positive activities that make you happy. You must get to the point where feeling good about your body is what drives you forward -- not the reward.

Photo Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/BDyksen

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About the Expert

Gerard J. Musante

Gerard J. Musante, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Structure House, a weight loss clinic in North Carolina. He is the author of The Structure House Weight Loss Plan and has testified as an expert witness on obesity before the U.S. Senate in support of the Commonsense Consumption Act.

I want to buy my girlfriend an event voucher for Christmas, but nothing she’ll expect. How can I find something unique that will blow her away?

Our experience is that women are delighted by presents that offer a joint event, especially for Christmas. According to research our company did last year, 89 percent of women desire time with their partner. Therefore don’t look for an item but for moments to spend as a couple.

Currently travel vouchers are very popular gifts. It’s not necessary to go abroad, since there are so many great and unknown places here in Germany. One of my favorite winter trips is a night or two in an igloo village. There are ice hotels, for example, on Germany’s tallest mountain, the Zugspitze. It’s a great “voyage d’amour”, and there are enough warm blankets that you won’t freeze!

If you prefer an outdoor event, there are many options. My favorite this winter is a sled dog course. They are offered in several areas of Germany, including Saxony and Bavaria. You learn how to steer the sled and how to work with the dogs.

If your girl isn’t the outdoorsy type, you could try a special dinner. A current best-seller is the “thriller dinner” or “dinner in the dark”:  You enjoy a meal with several courses in total darkness. Tasting the food and wine without seeing it is an unusual sensation, to say the least.

Here’s a final hint for all you men: Our statistics document that men tend to buy presents at the last minute, whereas women start voucher shopping weeks before Christmas. There’s no doubt you’ll be able to find a gift the morning of the 24th, but if you start earlier you will probably find a better one.

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Fabrice Schmidt is the CEO of “mydays” (mydays.de), one of the leading German online vendors of gift and event vouchers. The company offers more than 800 different options, from guided trans-Alp tours to rallies with vintage cars.

My cousin has finished training as a plumber and is about start his own business, while my brother is at university bogged down with huge student loans. Education costs are skyrocketing, so would I be better off learning a trade or getting a degree?

That’s a great question and one I’m being asked more often these days. The average graduate can expect to leave university with more than £30,000 of debt, so the decision to go to university should not be taken lightly. 

If you’ve done well in school and want to train as a lawyer, a teacher or any of the professions that require a degree, then of course it’s the right thing to do. But if you’re only able to get into one of the lower tier universities and you’re still not sure of your career path, you should really assess whether or not it’s worth it. The last thing you want to do is to leave university with a nicely-framed degree and a big student loan, only to join the ranks of the unemployed. (Also, keep in mind that schools have a vested interest in seeing young people go off to university because it makes them look good, regardless of whether it’s the right thing for a particular individual.)

Learning a trade can be rewarding and very lucrative, but it has its own set of challenges. Before you take a course, you have to think about whether there’s going to be a job at the end of it; there are no guarantees. And one of the biggest obstacles can be securing a work placement job to get some practical experience. On the other hand, if you are lucky enough to find a paid apprenticeship, you’ll be generating some income while you’re learning, and you’re more likely to find employment through the contacts you’ll make. 

My best advice is to set some goals and try to choose a general career path as early as possible. It will give you a tremendous advantage and allow you to consider all the available options. A career counsellor can help you identify your talents and what occupations you’re best suited to, but it really comes down to recognising what you’re good at, what captures your attention, and, most importantly, what makes you happy.

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Denise Taylor

Denise Taylor is an award-winning career coach, author, chartered psychologist and registered guidance practitioner. She has been helping people make career choices, identify and understand their abilities and be effective in the job search process for more than 20 years.

I recently read a study about how some people in the UK only wash their sheets three times per year. That seems pretty gross, but I’m wondering … how often do I need to wash my sheets to maintain good hygiene? After all, I wouldn’t mind saving money on laundry (and less washing would probably help the environment too!).

Humans shed about a million cells per hour. That’s good news for dust mites, because our skin cells are food for them. Thus, the more skin cells in your bed, the more dust mites -- which can exacerbate both allergies and asthma.

On top of mites, there can be all sorts of other ingredients in bed with you: semen, vaginal matter, fecal matter, perspiration and athlete’s foot fungus. Given this, it’s just common sense that if you leave your sheets unwashed too long, you’ll be creating a setting for bacteria, fungus and viruses. Add the fact that some people also eat in bed, and the area between the sheets can become quite a party for bacteria. These microscopic creatures can cause skin irritations, intestinal problems, staph infections and even flared-up allergies and asthma.

So I recommend you wash your sheets once a week.

If you have white sheets, I recommend you wash them with bleach, which will kill the germs. If your sheets are not white, use a color-safe bleach or a detergent with a peroxide agent.

If you don’t have a washer at home and use the laundromat, run the washer for five minutes (with bleach) before adding clothes -- this will sanitize the washer. (Simply disinfecting with a sanitary wipe will not capture all potential pathogens).

While microorganisms should not be feared (many play a good role in maintaining our health), many of the ones in our households can harm us. By taking sensible -- not extreme -- steps, we can give our bodies a much greater level of protection from the harm such pathogens can do us.

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Dr. Philip M. Tierno, Jr.

Dr. Philip M. Tierno, Jr., clinical professor of Microbiology and Pathology at the New York University School of Medicine, is the director of Clinical Microbiology & Immunology at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. He is also an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology at the NYU College of Dentistry and a lecturer at SUNY School of Optometry in New York City.

I've noticed that women like to check out my smartphone apps, almost like they're trying to figure out if I'm cool, smart or worldly enough. How can I win at this game?

To begin with, make sure you’ve erased any sexts you’ve got on there before handing your phone over. You never know what she might “accidentally” touch.

Assuming she’s not on a covert mission, why would a woman care about your “app-titude”? Consider it another screening tool in the getting-to-know-you quest. The apps you download can say a lot about who you are and what you have in common.

For example, a man who has Google Maps and isn’t afraid to use it? Well, we all know the old stereotype about men and asking for directions. If a gal sees you’re comfortable with an app map, she may think you’re progressive (even if it’s just your love of gadgets kicking in). Go ahead and pretend you’re the kind of guy who’s not afraid to ask for help -- it’ll score you points.

A wine app like “Nat Decants Wine Reviews, Pairings, Recipes,” which suggests wine and food pairings and gives you instant access to thousands of wine reviews, will make you look like you’ve got an interest in the finer things in life. Plus, you can always whip it out when ordering at dinner for an easy conversation starter.

A music app like Pandora with an interesting, eclectic range (throw some classical in there for bonus points) will also present you as a cultured sort -- and, again, is a great conversation starter. If you’ve downloaded similar stuff, point in common! If not, it’s an excellent opportunity to explore one another’s interests.

Intelligent reading material never hurts. If the latest post on TMZ is your idea of breaking news, so be it, but balance it out with something a little deeper, like The Guardian or The New York Times. Just like that hard copy of The Atlantic Monthly strategically placed on your coffee table, you don’t have to actually read it. Just displaying it tells the casual visitor you’re a smart cookie.

Of course, financial apps are always a solid bet. A woman is going to want to know you’re fiscally responsible, and seeing some kind of interest in the stock market or at least your own portfolio will tell her you’re thinking about your future. For a woman, nothing quite says “long-term potential” like monetary acumen.

This one’s less obvious, but a horoscope app can also be a winner -- as long as you spin it right. Ask her sign, and no matter what it says, pretend it reads something like, “Today you will go out with a man who brings joy to your life.” Sure it’s sappy, but she’ll probably laugh. Then you can read her real horoscope and see what resonates. (See? This little game can work in your favor too.)

Finally, don’t be afraid to play “I showed you mine, now show me yours.” Because all is fair in love and apps.

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kimberly_dawn_neumann

Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a New York City-based dating/relationship writer and coach whose work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Maxim and Marie Claire and online for Match.com, Yahoo, AOL, MSN and iVillage. She is the author of The Real Reasons Men Commit and Sex Comes First, and is an advisory board member for Blast Applications and CanDoBetter.com. Her blog-zine is called Dating Diva Daily.

I just throw on my scarf when I go out, but I see some guys who make a cool fashion statement with theirs. How can I look better in mine?

First, stick with a neutral color: Brown, black, gray or navy will match anything. Second, a man needs more than one scarf. A thin one of merino wool or cashmere will work for that next job interview, and a thicker one in cable knit is for casual occasions. Third, length matters: A longer scarf gives you more options and is easier to wear. Fourth, make your scarf work with your outerwear. Here are some combinations that are foolproof.

With a trench coat: Use a thinner scarf made of soft but durable material like merino wool or cashmere. If you’re on a budget, go for a blend. To wear it: Fold it in half, place it around your neck, and put the ends through the loop. Make sure the scarf is worn tight and close to your neck. For a sleeker look, keep the ends tucked into your coat.

With a leather jacket: Go with a thinner scarf again, but loop it around your neck a few times. Don’t pull it tight; you want a laid-back look. Wear it loose with the ends outside your jacket.

With bulky sweaters: A thick cable-knit scarf is the way to go. Wrap it around your neck once, making sure one end is longer than the other, then cross it over your chest. Pull the longer end over the shorter end, and wrap once or twice.  Then tuck the ends underneath. A heavier scarf will stay like that. 

Most important in all cases is to be open-minded. Experiment to find out what style looks best on you. The only real ironclad rules when it comes to scarves are: 1) It should keep your neck warm, and 2) if it itches, don’t buy it.

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Spencer Singer

Spencer Singer is store director at the Manhattan boutique of luxury menswear designer Billy Reid, who recently received the 2010 GQ/CFDA Best New Menswear Designer in America Award.

My girlfriend practically passes out whenever I take off my shoes. Is there any way to fix this problem short of wearing my shoes to bed?

The first thing you need to determine is whether the smell is emanating from your skin, or whether it’s from a chemical reaction occurring between your perspiration and the material in your shoes. Certain types of footwear -- like terry-cloth slippers, which absorb sweat and dead skin cells -- tend to be problematic. If you have this problem with only one pair of shoes or slippers, stop wearing them.

Let’s presume that you wear good foot gear (made of materials that “breathe” and/or are non-synthetic, such as leather) and bathe once a day. If the problem still persists, it may have to do with wearing sweat socks during athletic activity and not showering and changing those wet, sweaty socks afterward. Put on a clean pair of non-absorbent socks after you’ve cleaned up and you should be good to go. If your feet sweat a lot during the day, you may need to change your socks twice.

If these solutions don’t take care of the issue, there are several other strategies you can employ:

  • Use an antiperspirant. Try applying a regular underarm antiperspirant to your feet twice per day -- in the morning before you put on your socks and at night before you go to bed. This eliminates foot odor in half the cases where it has been a persistent issue. If over-the-counter is not strong enough, there are prescription versions you can try.
  • Try homeopathy. Some people find success by soaking their feet in tea-tree oil.
  • Botox it. Botox works by paralyzing the sweat glands. It’s effective but should be  a last resort: It requires at least 150 punctures to the sole of the foot and will last only about six months at a time. It’s also very expensive and not typically covered by insurance.

By and large, foot odor is preventable and treatable. I see very few cases of it in my practice, but when I do, one of these solutions usually does the trick.

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Dr. John E. Mancuso

Dr. John E. Mancuso is a private-practice podiatrist and has been with Manhattan Podiatry Associates for nearly 30 years. He specializes in general podiatry, podiatric medicine, foot surgery and rehabilitation, laser surgery and sports medicine.

I'm African-American, and my hair is frequently brittle and dry. Other than using good products, what can I do to keep my hair from drying out?

All hair is composed of the same elements, regardless of ethnicity. The structure of African-American hair, however, does cause it to hold less moisture. So there are certain tips that are useful for you to follow.

1. Get a haircut regularly, preferably every four to six weeks (four if your hair is short). This will prevent dry and split ends and keeps your hair healthier.

2. Use a silk or satin pillowcase. There are two reasons for this. First, cotton pillowcases have a coarser feel and create friction, which pulls at the hair and dries it out. Satin and silk are softer and gentler, so they have a smoother glide. Second, cotton absorbs more of your hair’s oils, which you want to avoid.

3. If you use a hairbrush, choose one made from natural bristles, preferably a boar’s bristle brush. It absorbs natural oils from your scalp and roots, and spreads it evenly throughout your hair, leaving it well conditioned and in a smoother, shinier state.

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Gilbert Valdez

Gilbert Valdez, a master stylist at the Aniko Salon in Chicago, was recently ranked by Chicago magazine as one of the city’s top hair stylists.

It seems that all of my buddies have some kind of talent, whether they're great at sports or play guitar or take amazing photos. Does everybody have some kind of innate skill, and if so, how do I find out what mine is?

I’ve never met a person who doesn’t have innate talent. Everyone has at least one. You may not like the one you got, but you’ve got one. For example, there are people who are incredible at being organized; they could never not put something back where it belongs. But they don’t perceive this as an ability, because they assume everyone can do what they do.

I suggest two approaches to finding your gift. The first is to think about what you love. What keeps you forever curious? What has you staying up late at night? Your healthy obsession will point to an area where a talent lies.

The other approach is to focus on what you complain about. If you have a regular gripe that begins: “I don’t understand people who just can’t seem to … ,” chances are that for you, this particular task comes naturally -- so naturally that you don’t even think about it. You can turn those complaints into contributions by taking what you know and doing something constructive with it.

Once you find out what your passion is, you’ll need to cultivate and commit to it. Work out an action plan. Establish consequences if you don’t follow through. Surround yourself with people with similar goals. Take a class. Network. Practice five hours a day if need be. And most important, stick with it. 

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Lauren Zander

Lauren Zander is the creator of The Handel Method of life coaching, which is taught at leading U.S. universities including the Stanford business school, M.I.T., and New York University. As chairman of The Handel Group, she and her team offer life coaching to both individuals and corporations. 

I’ve heard that many Europeans suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. How do I know if I’m deficient, and what should I do about it if I am?

The latest figures regarding vitamin D deficiency are alarming. A recent study says that about 90 percent of the German population suffers from it -- and most people don’t even know. This is a dangerous situation, since research shows that a lack of vitamin D not only leads to weakening of the bones, but also has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

To know whether you suffer from a vitamin D deficiency, you have to measure your levels -- which is done via a simple blood test. You may not have a deficiency, and too much vitamin D isn’t healthy either! So contact your doctor and make an appointment.

If you are deficient, there are two ways to increase your levels: through diet and through exposure to the sun. Diet is a bit tricky, as even foods rich in vitamin D, like salmon, mushrooms and eggs, do not contain significant quantities of the vitamin in normal portions. If you can tolerate a daily dose of cod-liver oil, that might do the trick, but let’s face it -- most of us can’t. So although I am not generally a fan of pills, I do think in this case it’s advisable to support your diet with vitamin D tablets (at least in the winter, when our sun exposure is limited).

But truly, the best way to pump up your vitamin D is to get outdoors, especially in summer. It’s okay to get 15 minutes a day of unprotected sun on your arms and legs. So if you’re one of the many who spend all day inside an office, try cycling to work, spending your lunch break in the park, or getting in some outdoor activities on the weekend. Not only will you up your levels of vitamin D, you’ll get in some healthful exercise too! 

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Michael Schmelzer

Michael Schmelzer ist studierter Sportwissenschaftler und arbeitet als persönlicher Fitnesstrainer, Ernährungs- und Gesundheitsberater in Frankfurt. Mit seinem Unternehmen clubsportif* (www.clubsportif.de) verfolgt er einen ganzheitlichen Ansatz zur Verbesserung des Lebensstils – die Ernährung ist dabei ein Schwerpunkt.

I've been hearing a lot lately about vitamin D deficiency. How do I know if I'm deficient, and what should I do if I am?

By definition, a vitamin is a nutrient that’s essential for living: In general, vitamin D strengthens the skeleton and promotes healthy bone growth. So vitamin D deficiency is definitely something to watch out for.

What’s tricky about vitamin D is that it’s difficult to pinpoint a daily recommended intake. This is because it’s the only vitamin that has both nutritional and endogenous sources. (Endogenous means “produced by our bodies” -- we produce vitamin D when we’re exposed to UV rays from the sun.) In other words, a man living in a sunny country who lacks certain D-rich foods won’t necessarily have a deficiency, while someone who consumes D-rich foods but never goes out in the sun might have a problem.

For the most part, healthy young adults who get outdoors regularly and eat well (foods rich in D include dairy products, eggs and fatty fish) are not at risk of a deficiency. It’s mostly an issue for the undernourished, the elderly, or those with macrobiotic or vegetarian diets. People with dark skin should also be particularly careful, since they need more exposure to sunlight to produce the necessary amount of D. 

Signs of a vitamin D deficiency are muscle pain and weakness, impaired bone mineralization and joint troubles. If you’re concerned, visit your doctor for a blood test and a nutritionist for a diet assessment. Supplements are an option, but they can be dangerous in their own right, so take them only under a doctor’s supervision.

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Nicolas Rouig

Nicolas Rouig est diététicien-nutritionniste à Paris et responsable au sein de l'entreprise Vitamine D (www.Dieteticien-entreprise.fr), qui proposent des consultations, des conférences et de la communication sur la nutrition et l'activité physique en entreprise.

I'm a funny guy. (No, really!) How do I get into professional comedy?

From a first date to talking your way out of prison in Thailand, comedy is a handy dandy tool to have in your bag of life tricks. The fundamentals of comedy -- listening, collaboration, innovative thinking, performance under pressure, making strangers chuckle -- are also surprisingly essential skills for the rest of your life. Because comedy gold often comes in threes, let’s break things down this way:

1.    Watch and laugh.
Watch as many comedy shows (live, FunnyOrDie’d or otherwise) as humanly possible. Learn from the masters and find the comedy “genre” (such as stand-up, improv or sketch) that’s a good fit for you:

  • Stand-up: You’ll be flying solo; you get the bravos and the boos all to yourself.
  • Improv (and sketch comedy) are co-pilot situations -- you need a partner in crime to throw that shaving-cream-pie in your face. In improv, you have the thrill of performing with no script, making everything up on the spot in front of the audience. (Kind of like a magic show, except with fewer good-looking assistants.)
  • Sketch comedy is rewarding in that you write your own material and perform with other funny folks. Storytelling and observation are critical in comedy. Tragic personal flaws help as well.

2.  Practice makes funny.
Next: Sign up for a professional comedy course. The Groundlings in Los Angeles, Upright Citizens Brigade in New York, The Second City and Improv Olympic in Chicago are all renowned improv and sketch theaters for a reason. For stand-up, sign up for open-mic nights in a comedy club in your neighborhood. Get on stage any chance you get -- bombing breeds comedy character.

Also, immerse yourself in biographies of your comedy heroes (SNL vets Steve Martin, Tracy Jordan and Jay Mohr all wrote fascinating and deeply funny tales.) Keep a notebook on hand at all times to write down character ideas, one-liners and hilarious premises.  

3.    Get them giggling on stage.
Keep performing until you work your way into a regular gig. (You can do this through auditions, open-mic nights, classes or founding your own improv group.) Once you build a reliably funny show and fan base, invite local media and casting agents. If you’re outside a major metropolitan area, create sketch, stand-up or character videos to submit to bookers and casting agents. If you strike comedy gold, you’ll get hired to do paying gigs on stage, in commercials, on TV or on the internet.

Remember the old adage: If you build a good joke, they will come.

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Carrie Seim

Carrie Seim, alum of the Groundlings Comedy Theatre in Los Angeles and member of The Deviants sketch comedy group, has been invited to perform at the prestigious Comedy Central Stage. Seim had a recurring role on E!'s Seven Deadly Hollywood Sins and regularly contributes to the New York Post, Tyra Banks Show, BettyConfidential.com and GuySpeak.com.

I love to blast my tunes. How do I soundproof my space so I don't get complaints from others?

Wow! That’s great to hear that you’ve come into some serious money, because soundproofing ain’t cheap. And if you plan on actually soundproofing your living space, get that credit card ready! Doing it right requires some serious construction gravitas, like building an external room (which is essentially just a husk) and the actual listening space that “floats” within the other room.

What’s that? You don’t have tons of money to devote to this project? That’s fine, but just don’t expect to completely soundproof your 3 a.m. “California Gurls” sing-alongs.

To knock down sound transmission on the cheap, try these tricks.

  • If you can stomach some construction, install special soundproofing drywall. (I recommend QuietRock from Serious Materials on top of the existing drywall.)
  • Find how sound is leaking out of your room, then seal up any gaps under doors with carpeting or rubber matting and around electrical outlets and light switches with caulk. There’s a special acoustic kind just for you!
  • If you can sacrifice aesthetics, hang some sound-absorption sheets (available at audimutesoundproofing.com) -- essentially the audio equivalent to what the dentist drapes over your junk pre-X-ray. Rugs, carpeting and traditional drapery can also help absorb sound.

Other ways to keep from ticking off your neighbors:

  • Instead of using a traditional noise-polluting subwoofer, attach a “butt kicker” (also known as a bass shaker or a tactile transducer) directly to your furniture, allowing you to feel the low notes. You’ll still get a bass sensation but without the boom-boom.
  • Sit closer to your speakers. If you halve the distance to your speakers, it will increase the output by 6 decibels -- nearly doubling the perceived volume level.
  • Close all the windows and doors when you’re listening to cut down on noise pollution, allowing you to enjoy at a lower volume.

As a final solution, just go and buy yourself a nice pair of headphones, dude.

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John Sciacca
John Sciacca, partner at the custom installation company Custom Theater and Audio in Murrells Inlet, S.C., is also a columnist/reviewer/writer for Sound + Vision magazine. You can read more of his pithy take on technology at John Sciacca Writes (johnsciacca.webs.com).

How can I tell which facial hair styles will look good on me?

When it comes to figuring out your ideal facial hair style, keep in mind you’ve got choices. But there are some general guidelines that can help you find the best style for you once you figure out the shape of your face.

If you’re not sure of your face shape, push your hair back and trace your face on the bathroom mirror using a dry bar of soap. It’s easier to discern when looking at the outline rather than your face itself.

Following are your basic face shapes and the hair styles that typically look best on them. Unless you work at the most conservative of offices, these looks will work at your average 9 to 5 if you follow the most important rule: Keep it well-maintained; this way, no one will think you just forgot to shave.

Facial Hair Styles for Square Faces
You’ll want to create the impression of a more slender, less boxlike shape, and a goatee or a circular beard will help. Remember, it has to be complementary to your hairstyle as well. This means that if you’re wearing your hair close-cropped, you’ll benefit from a grooming that carves in close around the neck and chin -- like David Beckham, who’s been known to wear a couple of days’ growth on the face but still presents a polished look.

Facial Hair Styles for Oval Faces
Bit of an egghead? Fear not, you’ve got more options than anyone else. This face, for instance, can sport a circular beard connected around the mouth -- a look that adds length to your face (since there’s no facial hair on the sides to broaden the beard). But you could also wear a goatee, giving that oval head some pizzazz.

Facial Hair Styles for Round Faces
Guys with round faces can appear heavier than they actually are. To remedy this problem, consider a goatee -- not to be confused with a circle beard (see “Oval” face above), the difference being that the goatee isn’t connected around the mouth. The benefit here is that it adds length and width, breaking up the lines of the face and balancing it.

Facial Hair Styles for Long Faces

If you’re long-faced, you need to avoid the goatee -- it will make your face look even longer. But there are still other options. The long-faced look great with sideburns. If your hair is tight on the sides, you could wear long sideburns, past the bottom of the ear. Just groom them close, and you’ll get an edgy -- but still clean -- look.

Bonus: Face shape isn’t the only factor that will help you gauge the right facial hair style. To wit:

  • Facial Hair Styles for Balding Guys
    If you have a short or shaved cut, consider a mustache or goatee, as it sets it off and adds a bit of contrast: Since you’re clean on top, these looks will give your head a bit more character.
  • Facial Hair Styles for Fair-haired Guys
    People with lighter hair have a harder time pulling off fuller facial hair styles because when the hair grows in, it can often appear wispy and give an appearance of patchiness. If you’re a fair-haired guy who is adamant about growing facial hair, stick with a 5 o’clock shadow: This prevents the hair from getting spotty or sparse.

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Danny Kerr

Danny Kerr is a managing partner of Spiff for Men, a full-service grooming salon for men in New York City.

How do I get the approval of my new girlfriend's friends?

First, keep in mind they’ll be eyeing you to see not only how much you dote on her when they’re looking but also, and more important, how much you dote when you think no one is: Do you pick up her napkin from the floor, look wistfully after her when she’s not by your side, get her a sweater because it’s getting chilly?

Second, remember all their names, where they went to school and their pets’ names. Refer back to them in the conversation so they can see you were paying attention. Ask about their friendship, her childhood, anything that will get you long-winded shaggy-dog stories about her past. Look enthralled.

Third, even if you’re vehemently opposed to PDA (public displays of affection), suck it up for now. Hold her hand, kiss her cheek, fiddle with her hair and make sure you do this all while looking very nonchalant.

Fourth, take chivalry to an extreme. Even if it feels corny or forced, pull out chairs, laugh at botched jokes and sympathize with incomprehensible girl angst.

Finally, even if Carmen Electra walks into the room topless, never let your gaze stray. You are being watched from all angles by several sources, and your first impression is priceless.

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Dr. Belisa Vranich

Dr. Belisa Vranich is a clinical psychologist, author and public speaker specialising in relationships and sex. She is also a member of the Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute and a sexpert at GoodInBed.com.

I love a party that’s got a great schlager. What’s the formula for putting together a terrific one?

Ten years ago my answer would have been very short: “No way -- do not play schlager music at a party!”

Today it’s exactly the opposite. Whether I’m working as a DJ at private birthdays, corporate parties or weddings -- schlager music thrills. In my opinion, this trend reflects the new German self-confidence: For the first time in many decades, we are proud of our nation -- therefore we love our own music, too.

To put together a great schlager, create a playlist which starts with the five best known hits. Many DJs don’t want to give up these songs right at the beginning, but you have to, since your guests want to be inspired as fast as possible. Otherwise they won’t enter the dance floor -- or worse -- will leave it after the second song.

If everybody’s dancing, you can mix up the playlist with some soul or jazz after five or six songs (solid schlager bores some people after a while). If someone doesn’t like the non-schlager stuff, he can use the break to take a drink and return when you re-schlager.

And remember to respect your guests’ wishes: If somebody asks you to play something special, do it. Usually it’s not just his personal request -- he may be representing the desire of a bigger group.

If I had to choose some songs to play, I’d recommend Marianne Rosenberg’s “Er gehört zu mir”, Chris Roberts’ “Du kannst nicht immer 17 sein” or my father’s “Aber bitte mit Sahne”. In fact, my personal favorite is my father’s hit “Ich war noch niemals in New York”. It’s emotional, famous and carries a strong message. It will enthrall.

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John Jürgens, Sohn des berühmten Schlagersängers Udo Jürgens, gehört zu den erfolgreichsten Event-DJs in Deutschland. Jürgens, alias „DJ John Munich“, hat mit „Munich’s Finest“ eine eigene Radiosendung bei Radio Gong.

I really have a natural instinct when it comes to how to get people on their feet and dancing. Right now, it's just something I do with my iPod at friends' parties, but I'd love to try doing this professionally. How do I break into the D.J. circuit?

Bob Sinclar, Daft Punk, David Guetta … today’s best French DJs all began somewhere. The most important quality for a DJ is to be able to feel his audience. He’s got to know how to get a good atmosphere going by playing the right disc at the right moment. If you’ve proven you can do that at your friends’ parties, you’re off to a good start.

To become a professional DJ, you must have equipment worthy of the title: earphones, two turntables, and a mix table. After learning the basic technique , I strongly advise you to mix as often as possible in any “live” situation -- small bars and private soirées included. It’s the best way to perfect your skills.

At the same time, you must create a musical style . Find inspiration by checking out new releases on sites geared toward DJs like beatport.com and traxsource.com. To put the finishing touches on your artistic identity, I recommend being very curious about old music: Disco, funk, and early house music will help you hone your musical knowledge, and it will be an important foundation of your career.

Once you complete these first steps, it’s time to knock on the doors of clubs and propose your services . Without a doubt, they’ll initially ask you to do the warm-up (the beginning of the party) or soirées in the middle of the week. Take your missions seriously, give them all you’ve got and invite all your friends (who will be your biggest supporters). If you’re good . . . the rest will be history!

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Michael Canitrot, DJ, producer, and creator of the “So, Happy in Paris?” parties, has performed in some of the greatest clubs in France and the world. He’s also a sound designer for luxury brands like Dior and Cartier as well as for the Cannes Film Festival.

Lately, I've been looking better than my girlfriend. How can I suggest she revert back to the brush, razor and makeup she used when we first met -- without insulting her?

I call the situation you’re in the “overly comfy zone.” It’s that place where you’re so comfortable with your partner, you no longer feel the need to impress him.

One way to get her back to some of her old but good ways is to ask her out like you used to when you two first met. Create situations in which she’ll want to get all decked out. And when she does, tell her how fantastic she looks.

Having the situation cue her to upgrade her grooming is better than your doing it (which would create resentment and pressure). A few well-timed compliments and she’ll soon sense a pattern. Then you can tell her that, while you love her no matter what, it makes you feel like she really cares when she goes that extra mile. If she knows it matters to you, she’s more likely to bother looking better. Too many women feel their men don’t really give a hoot anymore.

Make sure she knows you care -- a lot -- and that you appreciate everything she does for you. While you're at it, ask what you might be able to do for her. Reciprocation is very sexy -- she may have some grooming tips she’s been waiting to share with you.

She’s still not getting the hint? Push your look up a notch so the difference between you two is even more obvious. When she sees you’re getting compliments while she’s getting offered breath mints and a comb, she’ll get it.

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jenny_block
Jenny Block is the sex expert at FoxNews.com and author of Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage.

I think I'm into my girlfriend's sister more than my girlfriend. A lot more. I mean, her sister is, like, perfect for me. How do I switch partners without causing World War III (if possible)?

Get out of your relationship ASAP. Date other people and let at least six months go by.

Once your ex has a new serious guy, make sure that when you see them, you’re super-friendly -- especially with him.

Now, back to the ex-girlfriend’s sister: Send the “interested” vibe out to her (running into her seemingly by coincidence, choreographing seating so you are next to her, etc.) but do not make any moves. If this is going to work without imploding, she has to ask you out -- that way, you don’t look like a troublemaker.

Sounds like a lot of work? It is. My suggestion is to consider dating someone that just reminds you of her sister instead.

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dr_belisa_vranich
Dr. Belisa Vranich is a clinical psychologist, author and public speaker specializing in relationships and sex. She is also a member of the Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute and a sexpert at GoodInBed.com.

I have a good friend who really gets terrible haircuts (a little bit embarrassing to be seen with him, to be honest). Worse yet, he doesn’t seem to have a clue. Would it be weird for me to say something, and if so, what should I tell him?

Many guys are not brave enough to be honest with their best friends. If that’s the case with you, ask a mutual friend to bring up the issue. Your best choice there would be an attractive female. Why? When it comes to matters of style and appearance, men tend to accept suggestions more easily from women. (And the fact that she’s pretty and stylish only add to her perceived credibility.) But be careful: She mustn’t be too critical or it can shatter your colleague’s ego. Ideally, she’ll tell him he’s a smart guy but that his haircut completely destroys the positive impression. Afterward, watch how fast he runs to the hairdresser.

While I don’t know him, I’m sure a new cut can transform him into a style icon -- not only because of the haircut itself, but because of how it will make him feel: more self-confident, positive and authentic. A cool cut can even make him look stylish in jogging pants.

Think that’s an exaggeration? When we meet people, we first look at their faces and heads. In my opinion, they count for 80 percent of personal appearance. One last thing: Your friend mustn’t forget about the grooming products. He should ask his hairdresser for a good wax and shampoo.

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Ralph Kästle

Ralph Kästle ist der Inhaber des renommierten Münchner Friseursalons „baSH CLUB“. Zu Kästles Klientel zählen VIPs, Schauspieler, Künstler und Fußballprofis.

My best mate's getting married and I've been put in charge of organising the stag party. We've decided we want to go away somewhere, so what are our best options for an outstanding stag weekend?

Traditionally a stag party consists of a good night out at the local pub followed by some clubbing, a lap dance and a meal. But in the mid-90s things began to change and the stag tourism industry really found its feet.

Today stags are looking to create a memorable occasion — an entire weekend of celebration. And rather than leave the arrangements to their best man, most of the grooms are taking charge and working directly with professional stag travel and party planners to organise the trip.

Cities are fully explored before they’re recommended as destinations. And at our company, we set up a comprehensive infrastructure with businesses and local guides, which allows us to offer competitive pricing and top-of-the-line service to customers.

The average stag group tends to be about 12 to 14 guys. Options are only limited by access to the various airports around the UK and the budget, typically about £250 to £300 per head.

I find Eastern European locations provide the best value for money and a variety of activities and nightlife that’s hard to beat elsewhere. Among the most popular destination cities are Riga in Latvia and Krakow in Poland. These two vibrant hubs offer everything from firing Kalashnikov assault rifles to bobsledding and white-water rafting. Combined with warm hospitality and a social scene that’s second to none, they’re hard to resist.

Generally, weekends are structured so guys enjoy daytime activities like go-kart racing or paintballing, as well as having the opportunity to explore tourist sites and  get out on the town at night .

A typical two night trip with a £250-per-head budget includes flights, transfers, accommodation, daytime activities, club covers and guided assistance. Most of the weekends kick off with a few complementary drinks and a bus tour of the city, and if the guys are in the mood, a couple of dancers can help keep them entertained while they get their bearings.

The goal is to allow you to relax and enjoy a safe and exciting celebration -- one that you’ll be able to look back on with a smile long after the wedding.

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Paul Luke
Paul Luke is the Senior Stag/Hen Party Planner and the Eastern European Location Manager at lastnightoffreedom.co.uk.

I'm often under a lot of stress at work. How can I prevent the pressure from affecting my performance?

A certain amount of stress gets us to perform. We need deadlines, we need expectations, we need to know what the reward system is. It gets us to work at a higher level. The problem is that it can reach a point where the more you’re handling, the worse you perform.

In today’s work world, the stresses you face can be categorized into three areas.

The first is environmental stress -- the stress of your workplace having 24/7 access to you via e-mail and cell phone. To alleviate this, you have to create boundaries. You can say that after 8:30 p.m., you’re not going to respond to messages or calls until the next morning.

The second is resource stress. Most people and companies are doing more with less. Just to hold onto your job these days, you’re expected to do the work of two or three people with fewer resources than you had just a few years ago. Try to pool your efforts with your colleagues and come up with a plan that works well for everyone. Let’s say I work in customer service and I’ve inherited twice the number of accounts I started with. I can brainstorm with my co-workers in customer service on how we all can manage our workload together: There might be a more efficient way of serving customers when I use the collective thinking of the team. Normally, management will appreciate the new approach if it leads to greater efficiency. Normally.

The third is interpersonal stress, which usually has to do with your boss -- or, if you’re self-employed, that client who’s impossible to please. Learn to communicate with your boss to clarify what they expect from you. You can’t fix the other person, so don’t try.

You also need to take care of yourself physically. Exercise at the gym, play organized sports -- do something to purge the body of toxins and clear your mind. We literally hold stress in the body, and if you keep shoving it in there, you’re going to have physical symptoms. You’ve got to release that energy from the body.

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katherine_crowley
Katherine Crowley is a Harvard-trained psychotherapist who specializes in workplace issues. The co-author of Working for You Isn’t Working for Me, Crowley co-owns the corporate consulting firm K Squared Enterprises.

How do I get on a reality-TV dating show? Looks like a great way to get to know some hot ladies!

First, you’ll need to know how to find out about upcoming reality-TV dating shows: Casting agents routinely send queries through Craigslist. Usually they start by asking for a picture and maybe a short video. (You don’t need anything professional, so don’t waste the money.) Plus, there are industry publications like Backstage that carry casting listings, as do chat boards, fan sites and even the websites of the production companies creating the shows. (Of course, if you’re serious enough to have an agent, he’ll let you know about such opportunities.)

You may have heard about classes or courses that coach you on how to get onto reality shows. They’re a waste of time and money. Most shows don’t care about previous acting experience and would rather you not be an actor/singer/model.

Now let’s say you get to the next level -- a shot at being featured on a reality show. When you meet with producers, be extreme; Being subtle or humble gets you nowhere in reality TV. If you've always been tagged “the loud guy,” “the funny guy” or “the crazy guy,” take it up a notch and become a caricature so you stand out. The same goes should you actually land the gig.

Which leads us to our next bit of advice: If you get cast on a reality-TV show, don’t be a diva. Be late, cranky or demanding, and you’ll be quickly replaced -- faster than you can say “Jersey Shore.”

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Melissa Hobley
Melissa Hobley is a television and magazine publicist who works with celebrities, authors and athletes. She has worked extensively with television producers and bookers. 

I'm really good with the ol' axe (that's guitar, for you non-musical types) and I want to form a band. How do I best assemble a real butt-kicking ensemble?

When it comes to forming a band, it's a networking business all the way! Hang out in clubs, performance venues and recording studios -- every chance you can, all the time. Get out there and make an impression somehow. If you're not playing, dress cool -- do something to draw attention to yourself.

If you see a band and really like one of the musicians, compliment him and introduce yourself. There's nothing a musician likes more than to be told you're into what he’s doing. If you're shy, it's going to be a lot harder for you, unless you're incredibly talented.

Take every gig you can get when you're starting out, no matter how crummy it is. You never really know where you're going to meet the right people -- it can take a long time. There are cases where bands do auditions through ads and they find the right guy out of the blue, but usually it's people you know.

How do you know when they're the "right people?" Musically, you need that indefinable thing called chemistry. When people get together and work or create, there's a chemistry or there isn't. Second, you've just got to get somebody you can get along with. The idea that tension and stress causes great music is only true for a little while!

Economically, you're better off just hiring guys and not having any long-term commitments. But when you say, "You're in the band" -- you know, "You're a Scorcher" or "You're a Rolling Stone" -- they’ll give more, they're willing to do more, they feel more a part of it and they're apt to give a better performance.

It's a tough business, and there are no easy answers, that's for sure. But it boils down to being out there all the time, looking, networking and playing.

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Jason Ringenberg
Jason Ringenberg, a founding member of Jason and the Scorchers, has been a working musician and bandleader for over three decades. Jason and the Scorchers' latest album, Halycon Times, came out this year.

I have sensitive skin -- a lot of redness and itching. How do I take care of it?

When people come to see me with a sensitive skin condition, they may be referring to breakouts, itching or full-blown dermatitis. It’s a problem we can all relate to that can range from a minor blemish to a debilitating allergy.

Sensitive skin is caused by a number of different issues that can be put into three broad categories: allergic and irritant dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), acne and rosacea. All these conditions are often associated with itching and burning:

Allergic dermatitis is caused by something touching and sensitizing the skin. Poison ivy is an obvious example, but it could be something more obscure, like a piece of jewelry, latex gloves, your favorite soap or aftershave.

Treat it:

The first line of defense is to avoid contact with the allergen -- and if a known allergen does touch your skin, wash it off immediately. If you’re at all concerned, see your doctor. Otherwise, non-prescription treatments include oral antihistamines like Benadryl and hydrocortisone creams, which can be applied to smaller affected areas.


Irritant dermatitis is a compound problem that may have many contributing sources.

Treat it:

Good treatment starts by removing or minimizing those things you know might be causing the irritation. Beyond that, look out for cleaning solutions, detergents and household or workplace chemicals you use. Day to day, reduce long, hot showers, switch to milder forms of soap and shampoo, and finish your grooming routine by using a gentle moisturizer. Everything you do to reduce layers of irritation will help. If all else fails, try a mild hydrocortisone cream, and if that doesn’t work, you may need to step up to a prescription medication.


Acne is primarily a result of oily skin -- the buildup of bacteria and inflammation of hair follicles.

Treat it:

Over-the-counter lotions that contain ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide that often help with mild occurrences. Prescription topical treatments and/or antibiotics may be needed to treat more severe cases.


Rosacea, in which enlarged blood vessels give the face and nose a flushed appearance, has no known cause. But common triggers include drinking alcohol, eating spicy foods and even sunshine.

Treat it:

If you suffer from rosacea, always use a good sunblock. Treatments are similar to those for acne and include antibiotics and laser therapy.

Sensitive skin can be painful and embarrassing. Always look carefully at the soaps, perfumes and moisturizes you buy. The products we use play an important role in the health of our skin, so selecting items with pure, natural ingredients will likely be a large part of the solution.

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David E. Sawcer, M.D., Ph.D.
David E. Sawcer, M.D., Ph.D., is an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine.

I'm going to be the best man at my buddy's wedding. I understand that one of the requirements of the gig is I have to give a speech at the reception. I have no idea about the rules for a wedding toast (are there rules?). Help!

Are there actual rules for a wedding toast? Not really. Are there suggestions that you should follow to the letter if you want to maintain the friendship? You’d better believe it.

First and foremost, TWI (toasting while intoxicated) is a huge no-no. Assuming you’re of age, a sip beforehand to take the edge off is OK, but remember you’ll make a lot more sense if you’re sober. And you won’t run the risk of saying things you’ll live to regret.

Second, make it memorable. To do so, you’ll need informed material, such as a few mildly embarrassing childhood memories of your friend, the groom. However, your anecdotes should never progress beyond good-natured ribbing. Mention of his former sexual partners or anything else of a typically confidential nature is completely off-limits. If you’re worried that something you’re planning to say might be insulting or in bad taste, it probably is. As a double check, run your material by some trusted friends in advance.

Third, don’t forget the bride. Tell her you’ve never seen your friend happier, how she’s affected him for the better and how you knew from the moment you met her that she was the one for him.

Fourth, keep it brief. Your comments should take at least a minute, but no more than five. If you’re sharing the stage with the maid(en) of honor, don’t be a microphone hog -- be mindful of her time too. And give her your full attention when she’s speaking.

Fifth -- and this is one a surprising number of best men forget -- make sure you instruct everyone in the room to raise their glasses in toast. This signals you’re about to wrap your remarks. Sum up with appropriate fanfare: “ … And with that, let’s all raise a glass to one of the happiest couples you’ll ever meet, John and Linda. Cheers!” Take your sip, then head over to the newlyweds to give them a hug or kiss.

And now, sir, your toasting duties are complete. With any luck, your best buddy will be just as charming when he gives the toast at your wedding. But save this link for him just in case.

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Thomas P. Farley
Nice guy Thomas P. Farley is the creator of the blog What Manners Most, the nightlife correspondent for “Citybuzz” (seen on JetBlue and Continental Airlines flights nationwide) and the host of the Web television show “New York Insider TV.” He is a regular feature writer for Men’s Life Today, and you can follow him @mistermanners and @newyorkinsider.

When should I let people "work in" while I'm on a machine? And in a work-in situation, should everyone keep changing the weight and seat settings back for the other person?

Remember what happened in nursery school when you and a fellow toddler both wanted to play with the same toy? Grabbing, pushing and general mayhem would ensue, finally broken up by your teacher, after she rushed over and told you both that you needed to learn to share.

For many adults, sharing is still not something that comes naturally -- particularly in the testosterone-charged environment of the gym. I’ve often found myself wondering why on earth a certain lunkhead has decided he needs to use the exact same machine or weights I’m using at the exact same time I’m using them -- particularly if the gym is not crowded. In general, I find working-in requests to be disruptive and often experience performance anxiety lifting in front of someone who’s standing mere inches away from me -- I’m convinced the other guy is praying I won’t make my 12 reps so he can jump on the machine faster! (Granted, this may be my own issue, but chime in if you’ve felt this way too.)

In general, unless someone is being an equipment hog, taking an inordinate amount of time between sets, I prefer doing another exercise until the other individual is done. If, however, the individual seems to be napping between sets or if the gym is so mobbed that my chances of ever getting on a certain machine are slim to none, I’ll work in.

If you’ve decided you need to work in with someone to complete your routine, follow these guidelines of good gym etiquette:

  • Chose wisely. With free weights, pick a station where the other person’s lifting loads comparable to yours so you won’t each need to spend inordinate amounts of time loading and reloading. Likewise, if you’re six-foot-eight, avoid working in with a five-footer -- you don’t want to spend more time adjusting seat heights than you spend actually working out.
  • Inquire. Ask the other person how many sets he has left. If it’s just one or two, wait it out. If five or six ...
  • • Ask nicely. “Do you mind if I work in?” is preferable to “Dude! You’re taking forever; let me hop on!”
  • Be clean. Wipe down the seat and bars after each use so the next person doesn’t get a coat of your sweat. And when you finish your set, give the person some breathing room -- don’t hover.
  • Assist. Offer to spot if you’re using free weights and be sure to help unload and reload for his next set. If you’re using a machine, move the pin back to where it was before you got on. From there, he’ll move the pin to suit his own needs. Also be sure to move the seat or handles back to his positions.
  • Express appreciation. When you’re done, say thank you. And pay it forward: If someone asks to work in with you, grant the request gracefully.

Do all the above and you just may have made friends (and maybe even future workout partners) at the gym.

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About the Expert

Thomas P. Farley
Nice guy Thomas P. Farley is the creator of the blog What Manners Most, the nightlife correspondent for “Citybuzz” (seen on JetBlue and Continental Airlines flights nationwide) and the host of the Web television show “New York Insider TV.” He is a regular feature writer for Men’s Life Today, and you can follow him @mistermanners and @newyorkinsider.

When I manscape, I get rid of the trimmings by sweeping them up and tossing them into the sink. Just wondering: Can I simply let the water run in the sink to wash the hair down the drain, or will that eventually clog the drain? Please advise -- I can't afford a plumber!

Any time hair goes into drain systems, you have the possibility of a blockage. It's not the hair by itself -- it's soap and shampoo, which build up in the piping, coating the inside of the pipe in thin layers. If you toss the trimmings into the sink or groom over it and let the hair wash down the drain, it can stick to the buildup, where it accumulates.

Facial hair from regular shaving isn't generally a problem because the hairs are so short. Manscaping poses more of a problem because the hairs are longer. When they get caught in the buildup, they can accumulate, until eventually you have a clogged pipe.

The type of piping can make a difference. Plastic piping is typically more resistant to clogging than cast iron or steel piping, because it has no positive or negative charge. So if you're having new plumbing done, consider plastic -- especially if you're going to be clipping some thick fur.

However, even plastic piping can be affected by buildup. Here’s the best way to keep the plumber away: Use a small strainer in the sink to prevent hair from entering the drain. You can also use an enzyme-type drain cleaner to dissolve the grease and hair before it builds up.

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raymond_vinzant

Raymond VinZant, a master plumber for 40 years, is an engineer, teacher and patent reviewer in the field and gives seminars to his peers. He wrote a chapter on plumbing in Samantha Ettus' book The Experts' Guide to Life at Home.

Sometimes my suntan lotion seeps into my eyes and ... oh, man, the burn! Needless to say, it's not always easy to get to a sink at the beach to wash the stuff out. How do I prevent sunscreen from going into my eyes?

When you’re enjoying the summer sunshine, nothing spoils the fun faster than the crippling pain of sunscreen finding its way into your eyes. It’s a common problem that can be easily fixed if you follow a few simple rules:

1.   Start by using a high-quality sweatproof/waterproof broad spectrum sunscreen

with the highest sun protection factor (SPF) available. These preparations bind to the skin much better than their non-waterproof counterparts and are a great first step in preventing eye irritation caused by sunscreen.

2.   Wear a sports hat with a built-in sweatband,
which will channel perspiration away from your eyes. Not all activities lend themselves to wearing headgear, but remember that hats not only keep sunscreen out of your eyes, but also play an important part in protecting you from the sun.

3.   Carefully apply sunscreen around the orbit of the eye
. You can go a little closer on the underside, using the bone as your guide. Luckily, the brows tend to shield the upper eyelids, and we rarely see skin cancers there, but as added protection, always wear sunglasses when possible. 

As a final step, look for the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation on the sunscreens you use. (Check out SkinCancer.org.) That will help you choose a reliable product: The organization’s approval process includes validating the SPF numbers and substantiating claims of water/sweat resistance.

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Dr. Lucinda S. Buescher

Dr. Lucinda S. Buescher

is an associate professor of dermatology and the chief coordinator of the Simmons Cooper Cancer Institute’s Melanoma Center at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.

My bandmates and I want to record music (our soon-to-be-major-hit songs). We're rich in talent but not in $$$. What are some basics we need to know in terms of laying down some professional-sounding tracks on the cheap?

If you're cash-poor but tech-savvy and have time to learn, record music by going DIY.

You can buy a digital audio workstation (recording hardware and software) for under $1,000. Numerous companies manufacture inexpensive, quality microphones and preamps, which you’ll also need. (Look at magazines like EQ and Tape Op, and websites like GearSlutz.com for reviews of all the above.) Just a heads-up, though: Expect to spend 80 percent of your time learning how to use all this before playing a note.


Not up for it? You can book a recording studio with an engineer -- it will cost more, but it will also allow you to focus on making music. First, figure out how much you can afford to pay, then tour several local studios. (Google “recording studios” and your zip code -- same for “recording engineers.”) Talk to the house engineers and listen to samples of their recent work. Ask if the studio offers an “indie rate.” Look at their client list: If you know anyone on it, call them; if not, find the artist’s music online. Bottom line: You don’t need to hire any Mr. or Ms. Fancy-Pants Producer at a gazillion dollars an hour.


Next: Rehearse till you drop!Record yourselves and listen critically. A really well-rehearsed band can record basic tracks for three to five songs in two days.

For overdubs and mixing, many professional engineers have their own personal studios that are less expensive -- just make sure you've heard samples that were mixed there. Mixing can take many hours, so see if the engineer offers a project rate (a flat fee for all of the mixes). Done mixing?

Shop around for a mastering engineer. (Prices vary widely.) Either way, a five- or six-song EP is enough for a debut. Use a reputable company to press CDs (which you can find on the Web by searching "CD manufacturers"). You don't need a local company; many indies go with Discmakers or Oasis. Only order what you expect to sell and use for promotion; focus on digital distribution, but you'll still need some physical CDs for radio.

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Denise Barbarita
Denise Barbarita is a freelance recording/mix engineer based in New York City. Her client list includes Herbie Hancock, The Roots, Mary J. Blige, Apollo Heights and Pillow Theory.

I often suffer from facial redness and dryness. (Let’s just file this under the general irritation category.) Is there anything I can do to reduce these maladies?

There are many reasons you might be experiencing facial redness and dryness.

One possible cause is

seborrheic dermatitis

-- essentially a dandruff of the skin related to an overgrowth of the yeast naturally present on our faces and other parts of the body. It can be most noticeable in the brows, nose and chin (the area known as the face’s T-zone). Seborrheic dermatitis can occur at any age, though it might be more evident during puberty.

There is nothing you can do diet-wise to prevent these outbreaks, but you can use an over-the-counter dandruff shampoo containing ketoconazole to keep them in check. Apply the shampoo two or three times per week on any affected areas of the face.

You might also be suffering from

eczema

, an allergic reaction to a product or food. Making dietary changes can help prevent these outbreaks. Flaxseed and omega fish oils have been known to reduce the severity of eczema episodes. It’s also very important to keep the skin moisturized (easier to do now in the summer than during the dry winter months).

Another possibility is that you are experiencing

rosacea

, a redness that occurs when susceptible individuals are exposed to heat, spicy foods or alcohol and causes their blood vessels to dilate. This problem, particularly because it is connected to hotter weather, is more common in summer. Prevention options include avoiding coffee, tea, spicy foods and alcohol, and wearing a sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection of at least SPF 30.

One last reason for facial redness is

heat rash

, which occurs when sweat gets trapped in our pores and causes inflammation. The best treatment for that is just to stay cool and wear breathable clothing. You can also try touching the roof of your mouth with an ice cube, which often tricks the body into thinking it’s cooler than it is.

Any man experiencing facial dryness will want to use a non-detergent cleanser -- not a bar of soap, which dries the face -- in the morning. You should also use a non-lotion moisturizer that’s noncomedogenic and apply it in the morning and evening.

I can’t promise that these remedies will be cure-alls for your facial redness and dryness, but if you learn how to care for and treat your skin based on its sensitivities, you will be ready to treat outbreaks and ensure they’re not long or acute situations.

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Dr. Francesca J. Fusco

Dr. Francesca J. Fusco, an associate member of the American Academy of Dermatology, is a dermatologist with the Wexler Dermatology Group, in New York. Aside from focusing on dermatological diseases and conditions, her practice is widely recognized for its emphasis on skin rejuvenation.

My one-year review is coming up, and I heard that well-groomed employees are more likely to be promoted. Why is this? Shouldn't my work performance be the only factor?

There’s no doubt that being well-groomed will be noted in the plus column of any employer.

A recent study indicates that 84 percent of all human resources professionals agree that well-groomed employees climb the corporate ladder faster than those who are not well-groomed. And that makes sense.

When you take the time to make yourself look professional, it indicates that you care -- not only about your personal appearance but about your role in the workplace too. If you are meticulous about how you look, you’re probably taking the same approach to your work. It’s good to express an individual style, but making the effort to simply look good within the appropriate guidelines of your particular professional environment is essential.

Clean up your act, and it will help you clean up on the job.

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About the Expert

Kelly Rae
Kelly Rae, executive fashion director for Spin magazine, has been a style editor and consultant for several top men's national media brands, including Maxim and Stuff

I'm really getting into NASCAR these days! It's not that I want to be a driver, but I'd like to be able to experience some of the thrill of racing. Any way I can ride a NASCAR car?

You’re in luck, Goggles Paisano!

Not only will NASCAR let you ride on an official Sprint Cup track in a fully loaded 600-horsepower stock car, but -- depending on how many points you have on your license -- the organization will actually let you sit behind the wheel and drive. And if you’ve got it in you, you can get up to speeds close to those of your favorite drivers.

As long as you’re at least 18 years old with a valid license, you can sign up for the Richard Petty Driving Experience and follow in the King’s tire tracks. With a price range of $449 to $3,499, the wheel deal lets you put your pedal to the metal for eight laps in one session, or as many as 40 laps over 40 sessions.

After a five-minute orientation and video, they’ll hand you a racing suit and you’ll get driving instructions from a crew chief, 25 minutes of mechanical and safety instructions and the comforting warning to buckle your seat belt.

You have the option to burn rubber on such hallowed ground as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Bristol’s high-banked bullring or the drafting meccas of Daytona or Talladega. Go to DrivePetty.com or call 1-800-BE-PETTY to get track schedule information and details on scheduling and requirements. Dashboard Jesus not included. 

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About the Expert

Robert Edelstein

Robert Edelstein is the author of Full Throttle: The Life and Fast Times of NASCAR Legend Curtis Turner. His next book, NASCAR Legends, comes out in February 2011.

I want the best razor. What qualities should I be looking for?

The razor has come a long way since it was first invented in the Bronze Age. But even given all the advances in modern shaving technology, a lot of men still experience discomfort during and after shaving.

If you’ve already established proper technique and an arsenal of shaving products, then here’s what you need to look for in a good razor:

High-quality materials, thin blades, an ergonomic handle, and add-ons like lubricating strips and guards. A cheap single-blade razor or a dull blade can tug and pull at hair, causing redness, irritation and even infection, so you really want to invest in a high-quality product with multiple blades. (Stainless steel is the industry standard.)

Also, the thinner the blades, the closer the shave and the more you can cram into the same space. There’s no magic number as to how many blades is ideal, but if you have really sensitive skin, you probably don’t want to go overboard -- in this case, the more blades, the more chance of irritation.

Next, look for an ergonomic handle with some etching or texture for added grip and maneuverability.

And finally, look for add-ons like lubricating strips and guards (often called snowplow guards). They provide slickness and comfort, and remove excess product so that the blades can better glide over the skin. Just remember that while a moisturizing strip provides lubrication, it doesn’t take the place of a moisturizing aftershave product.

Once you find a good razor and a blade configuration that works for you, stick with it.

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About the Expert

Bret Reichley is a barber extraordinaire in Manhattan’s West Village. He got his start 14 years ago, and he has worked and trained alongside some of the best hairdressers and stylists around the world.

In my neck of the woods, I'm the video game king -- I'd like to turn my awesomeness into a career. Are there any potential jobs for people good at video games? How do I prepare for one?

Ten years of explosive growth has fueled a demand for adding new talent into the game development world. Coupled with the most powerful consoles in history, HD capabilities of the Xbox 360 and the PS3, and the explosion in the hand-held and smartphone market, games are everywhere! And so are jobs for people good at video games.

The employment upside is tons of opportunities for living the dream of getting off the couch and into game development. The industry has a constant demand for animators, visual effects and environmental artists, AI, core and game play engineers, level and systems designers, sound designers and writers.

Getting a game on the shelf takes a village, so there are opportunities even if you’re not a techie. This includes jobs handling business, legal, finance, operations, marketing, public relations, sales, quality assurance, etc. If you’re strong at organizing, communicating and leading, game production or production management may be your ticket.

There are over 50 North American colleges and universities offering undergraduate game design programs, and larger game publishing companies typically have staff building relationships with these programs. One resource worth checking is The Princeton Review, which lists schools offering focused gaming degrees. (The “Top 50 Undergraduate Game Design Programs” list is available at PrincetonReview.com.) Interning is another option for breaking into the biz. Check out the game companies’ Web sites or call their human resources departments for more information.

If you have the passion for video games and want to make a career out of it, find a way to get your foot in the door and work your way into the job of your dreams.

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About the Expert

Matthew Fillbrandt
Matthew Fillbrandt is a lead producer at LucasArts for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II. He began his career as a corporate paralegal and started at LucasArts in the legal department in 1999. He was able to make his transition into the production side of video games in 2002 and has never looked back.

I’m 24 years old and still have acne. Why is this and when will it stop?

Roughly 25 percent of the adult males who come through my office are there because of acne issues, so this is by no means uncommon.

Part of the reason adults still have acne is simply genetics. The cause can also be environmental -- perhaps you are using a cream that is clogging your pores. Or you sweat a lot. Or you take medications like lithium or steroids. And men, because their bodies have higher levels of testosterone than women, are naturally more acne-prone.

Fortunately, no one -- teen or adult -- needs to live with acne. Medications and treatments have advanced greatly over the past several years, and there are effective treatments for just about everybody.

Of course, we will all get pimples from time to time, and this is nothing to be concerned about. For these occasional appearances, you might want to try an over-the-counter salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. But where there is a concentration of acne on the face, you should see your dermatologist, who will set you up with a treatment plan.

One of the most potent but effective remedies is Accutane. It’s not always recommended for teens (because it can hinder physical growth) or patients with any of the following:

  • certain kinds of depression (especially suicidal depression)
  • liver disease
  • irritable bowel syndrome, colitis or Crohn's disease
  • high levels of cholesterol
  • those using medicines in the tetracycline family

Accutane can also make the skin particularly photosensitive, which presents an issue in summertime. But for acne sufferers who don’t fall in any of the above categories, Accutane remains a very good solution.

If you merely want to be vigilant about acne and take safeguards against it, cleanse your face twice daily and take care not to apply hair product within an inch of the scalp. (Otherwise, it can drip onto the forehead and clog your pores.)

Other tips: If you sweat a lot during sports, keep a cloth handy so you can wipe and clean your face and prevent a dirt buildup. Use sunblock and face creams that are noncomedogenic (those that won’t block your pores).

Shaving can also be an excellent safeguard against acne because it exfoliates the skin and helps remove dead layers from the epidermis. Just make sure you shave in the direction of beard growth, not against it (which can cause ingrown hairs), and use a clean blade (changing your blade every few shaves). You should also be using a shaving gel (not cream) designed to help prevent acne. Finally, allow your razor to dry between uses so it won’t harbor bacteria.

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About the Expert

Dr. Francesca J. Fusco

Dr. Francesca J. Fusco, an associate member of the American Academy of Dermatology, is a dermatologist with the Wexler Dermatology Group, in New York. Aside from focusing on dermatological diseases and conditions, her practice is widely recognized for its emphasis on skin rejuvenation.

Quite a few muscle guys at my gym have shaven armpits. I'm pretty well cut myself, so I'm considering adopting this look. But I'm wondering, Are shaven armpits itchy and uncomfortable? Could I, and should I, just trim? And how would that feel?

It’s not just the muscle guys at your gym deforesting their pits. Have you seen an NBA game recently? These days, it seems like everyone who has to occasionally go sleeveless (or shirtless) is opting to reach for the razor to mow his pits.

But to answer your question, yes, shaven armpits might be itchy and uncomfortable at first. Women (at least the ones on this side of the Atlantic) have simply gotten used to the sensation because they’ve been doing it since they hit puberty. (Isn’t it amazing what they endure to look good for you?)

There are, however, ways to reduce irritation and prevent ingrown hairs in shaven armpits. Using a creamy deodorant or -- if you have extreme itchiness -- a topical hydrocortisone cream can help.

Next, when it comes to maintenance, the same rules that apply to your facial hair also apply to pits: If you’re prone to dark stubble (probably because you have light skin and dark hair), you’ll have to shave every day or every other day to keep your shaven armpits looking smooth and clean.

And as for trimming, it’s simply a matter of what you want to achieve. Most guys trim their armpit hair to reduce sweat and unpleasant odor, not to get a silky smooth beach-ready look. Go ahead and try both to see which one you like better. It’s not like it won’t grow back.

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Dr. Jeffrey Benabio

Dr. Jeffrey Benabio, a fellow of the Academy of Dermatology (FAAD), is a clinical dermatologist and skin care expert in San Diego. He founded TheDermBlog.com.

I travel a lot. Sometimes I'm in a place that has hard water; sometimes I'm in a place that has soft water. Does the kind of water I shave with affect the quality of my shave?

The sort of water you use to shave should not have any effect on the closeness or effectiveness of your shave (though hard water can dull razors -- more on that below). Your skin will typically adapt to the sort of water -- hard or soft -- that you have in your community. That said, if you travel frequently or have just moved to a new area, you may notice a difference in the way your skin reacts after the shave. …

With soft water, which by definition is low in mineral content, you might notice your skin feeling a little smoother or a little more oily.

With hard water, which is high in mineral content, you might feel like there’s residue remaining on your face after you’ve washed or shaved.

While hard water does boast a few benefits -- high quantities of calcium or selenium in your water can help with such problems as seborrhea or psoriasis --water-related skin problems tend to be the result of hard water.

If your exposure to hard water is prolonged, any adverse post-shave reactions should pass after a few weeks as your body creates the right amount of oil to compensate. In the interim, there are a few things you can do to avoid discomfort from shaving with hard water:

  • To prevent mineral buildup on the razor blade (which will dull its edge), be sure to wipe it clean after each use. You may also want to rinse it with distilled (not tap) water.
  • After your shave, to minimize irritation, follow up with a super-gentle moisturizer.
  • If necessary, use a mild cortisone cream to ameliorate skin flare-ups.
  • When all else fails, wash and shave with distilled water, and the problem should vanish.

As for anyone who has hard water at home and whose skin does not react well over the long term, attaching a device called a water-softener to your incoming water supply may be in order.

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About the Expert

Dr. David Colbert

Dr. David Colbert is the founder and head physician of New York Dermatology Group. His expertise in dermatology, internal medicine and diet have made him a sought-after consultant for top actors.

I know how to treat my face to get a great shave (hydrate plus to the max). But is there any particular way I should treat my razor to get the best performance from it?

There are steps you can take before, during and after the shave to ensure the best performance.

Before the shave, find a blade that works well for you and your face -- not all are created equal. Hold the razor head under hot water, shake off the excess drops and begin. (Rinsing with hot water removes any residue from your last shave -- plus it feels unpleasant to put a cold razor head against your warm face.)

During the shave, rinse the razor frequently -- usually after a couple of strokes. If a razor is full of lather, it will pull and tug at the hair (which leads to ingrown hairs, razor bumps and the like) instead of cutting it.

After the shave, replace the blade as soon as you feel it getting dull (usually anywhere from three to six shaves). I’ve noticed that some guys will just bear down harder when the cartridge gets dull, squeezing out a few more shaves -- but more pressure causes cuts and ingrown hairs.

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Michael Ham

Michael Ham is the author of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving, blogs about shaving and life at leisureguy.wordpress.com.

I'm trying to figure out how to best manscape my frontal torso hair. (I say "frontal torso" instead of "chest" because hair grows on my entire front.) Should I completely shave the non-chest areas and trim the rest? And how long should the trimmed hair be? I want to look natural but groomed (and not gnarly).

Hair on the torso can be a problem, and when you’ve got a ton of it, it’s just not attractive. You’ve got to help nature out a bit and redesign it the way nature could have done it. Chest hair or torso hair works when it’s not too long and also doesn’t look like you trim it.

How long should chest hair be? That’s the tricky part, but usually 1/2 to 3/4 inch long looks natural.

The best way to trim chest hair is by using clippers with either an adjustable guard or a set of different removable guards. On the chest, hair can all pretty much be one length. On the abdomen, you’ve got to navigate around the line of hair beneath the belly button. Women find the “treasure trail” there sexy, so you want to keep it longer -- maybe by not trimming it at all and just clipper-ing around it.

If you’re just cleaning up the non-chest areas and don’t have much hair on your abdomen anyway, shaving works. Just leave the treasure trail alone.

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Kyan Douglas
Kyan Douglas, famously known as the grooming guru on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” is the health and beauty expert on the “Rachael Ray” show and the host of TLC’s “10 Years Younger.”

How does aftershave work, scientifically speaking?

Originally, aftershave just had one purpose: to disinfect. Back when people actually went to the barber for a shave, the blades weren’t always perfectly sharp, and more importantly, they weren’t always completely disinfected between customers. Aftershave, which was basically a scented rubbing alcohol, was a good way to prevent bacteria (and another person’s blood) from causing a nasty infection or even a potentially life-threatening disease.

Today, most aftershaves still contain alcohol as one of the main ingredients, which acts as both a disinfecting agent (to eliminate harmful bacteria) and a toner. But aftershave, like the rusty straightedge, has come a long way.

Not too many years back, first-time shavers who splashed on some of their dad’s aftershave would feel the burn (the sum of open pores plus nicks plus alcohol). To help solve that problem, more and more aftershaves are now formulated with hydrating and moisturizing ingredients like aloe and glycerin. They can’t replace the alcohol, but they work to protect and balance your skin.

Plus, just like you now have the options of five blades instead of two, there is an endless variety of post-shave splashes, gels and lotions that promise to do everything from eliminating breakouts and tightening pores to reducing razor burn and maybe even preventing wrinkles.

The key is choosing the right one that will work for you, and it’s actually pretty simple: Determine your skin type and then look at the ingredients.

Here’s one method to gauge your skin type: Take a piece of tissue paper and blot your forehead and nose. Does it look like a napkin after you’ve blotted a piece of pizza? Bingo: You fit the oily skin profile.

If you have oily skin and are prone to more breakouts (or if you suffer from ingrown hairs), stick to an alcohol-based splash, balm or gel and look for ingredients like witch hazel, tea tree oil and salicylic acid -- they act as drying agents and can help deep-clean pores and follicles.

On the other hand, if you have especially dry or sensitive skin, a lotion can help hydrate parched skin cells and soothe irritation. For moisturizing, look for ingredients such as aloe vera.

If your main concern is redness, choose an oatmeal-based product -- oatmeal contains natural anti-inflammatory agents, making it Mother Nature’s original cure for itchiness and irritation.

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About the Expert

Christie Kidd

Christie Kidd is a dermatologist practicing in Beverly Hills, Calif. For the past 13 years, she has dedicated herself to helping patients discover their inner glow and put their best face forward.

Let's say I need to clean up my 5 o'clock shadow before I leave work for a date or business dinner. Is it OK -- in terms of proper etiquette -- to shave in the men's room at work?

To paraphrase, you’re wondering if the axiom “never let ’em see you sweat” also applies to shaving? The answer, my whisker-loathing friend, is yes, it does. Even for the most hirsute, as long as you’ve given yourself a good shave that morning, you should be able to make it to the end of the workday without looking like Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski.

But if your face needs a quick once-over before you start your night on the town, try to find a more appropriate place than the office loo. After all, do you really want your co-workers to walk in and find you in shaveante? Imagine the performance anxiety you’ll feel as your boss waits for the sink while you shape your sideburns.

Instead, a better option is to take your scruffy visage to the gym. As you dive into your Dopp kit in the locker room, dream of the day when you’ll have your own private bathroom at the office. Then, young man, you can shave at work to your heart’s content.

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About the Expert

Thomas P. Farley
Nice guy Thomas P. Farley is the creator of the blog What Manners Most, the nightlife correspondent for “Citybuzz” (seen on JetBlue and Continental Airlines flights nationwide) and the host of the Web television show “New York Insider TV.” He is a regular feature writer for Men’s Life Today, and you can follow him @mistermanners and @newyorkinsider.

Do you really get a better shave from a manual razor as opposed to an electric? What are the benefits?

It’s the efficiency of electric razors that I find most bothersome. They are efficient and fast, but they deprive a man of a practice that is an ancient one. Wet shaving makes you contemplate. It makes you stop. It’s a ritual that’s deep in our psyches. Rubbing a machine over your chin while you speed down the highway at 70 mph is not in our primal nature.

Apart from the emotional benefits of shaving with a manual razor, the process is also superior when it comes to exfoliating the face. There is nothing like washing, soaping, shaving and toweling to keep your skin looking younger and more vibrant. And there’s no question that you get a shave that lasts longer. Even proponents of the electric razor will give you no argument in that regard.

Believe me, I’ve been barbering for 41 years. If someone came in to my barbershop and said they had an electric razor that was superior to a manual one, I would definitely use it. But that simply hasn’t happened.

 

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About the Expert

Aidan Gill

Aidan Gill first learned to shave at age 16 in Dublin. Having been in the United States for 20 years, he owns two barbershops in New Orleans, where he estimates he’s shaved thousands of men from all 50 states.

Now that the vernal equinox is arriving, is there some kind of grooming equivalent to "spring cleaning"? Maybe some way to give my skin and hair some extra attention?

Think of it like a seasonal wardrobe change: Now that it’s time to shed your heavy winter parka and sweaters in favor of lighter polo shirts and shorts, you need to take the proper precautions to make sure you’ve erased (or at least lessened) the tolls of winter on your skin.

First, think about what your skin has been through these last few months: The cold, dry air and fierce winds most likely caused chapping, flaking and irritation, and the moisture has pretty much been zapped. It’s time to slough off the old and slather on the new.

Scalp
Let’s start with your hair. Your scalp is particularly vulnerable to the elements, especially if you’re the type to shun the wool ski cap in fear of “hat head.” Even if your noggin isn’t showing signs of flaking or redness, it couldn’t hurt to add a rebalancing and moisturizing treatment this time of year. Look for a shampoo and conditioner containing vitamin E, protein (silk or soy), shea and botanicals (usually labeled “moisturizing,” “scalp purifying” or “reparative”). Now on to your mug …

Skin: Exfoliate
As the mercury rises and the humidity increases, the sensitive skin on your face suffers the first stages of PTSD, Post Traumatic Seasonal Disorder. (Yes, we made that term up.) This is a critical moment, when it’s time to call in the buffers and the greasers (aka the exfoliators and the hydrators).

First, start with a deep exfoliation treatment to loosen and remove dead skin cells and open up pores. This step is especially important before any kind of hair removal because it helps provide a closer, smoother shave. Look for a product that contains an acid -- glycolic, alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or salicylic acid (BHA). Scrubs that contain natural ingredients like apricot pits and walnut shells sound effective, but they’re actually quite rough and can cause microscopic tears in the skin.

Skin: Hydrate
If you’ve been using a thick moisturizer during the winter, you might want to switch to a lighter one for warmer weather to avoid clogged pores and breakouts. Look for a product that contains natural oils and botanical extracts (shea butter, green tea and grape seed extract), with an SPF of at least 30. (The American Academy of Dermatology recently upgraded its minimum SPF recommendation from 15 to 30.)

Skin: Rebalance
Not to get too girly on you, but all the chicks are doing rebalancing face masks at this time of year in order to attain that “spring chicken” glow. You can buy a premade version at the drugstore (just look for words like “hydrating” and “balancing”) and it only takes 15 minutes to work. Or if you’re really feeling especially MacGyver-ish, hit the fridge. Mash up half a banana with a dollop of plain yogurt, a squirt of honey, a handful of oats and a splash of green tea, and you’re good to go. Think of it like the breakfast of champions … for your face.

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Jessica Lothstein
Jessica Lothstein is a former editor at Best Life magazine. She was awarded a Fifi from the Fragrance Foundation for editorial excellence in fragrance coverage.

I recently read a study about how some people in the UK only wash their sheets three times per year. That seems pretty gross, but I’m wondering . . . how often do I need to wash my sheets to maintain good hygiene? After all, I wouldn’t mind saving money on doing laundry (and less washing would probably help the environment too!).

Humans shed about a million cells per hour. That’s good news for dust mites, because our skin cells are food for them. Thus, the more skin cells in your bed, the more dust mites -- which can exacerbate both allergies and asthma.

On top of mites, there can be all sorts of other ingredients in bed with you:  semen, vaginal matter, fecal matter, perspiration and athlete’s foot fungus. Given this, it’s just common sense that if you leave your sheets unwashed too long, you’ll be creating a party for bacteria, fungus and viruses. Add the fact that some people also eat in bed, and the area between the sheets can become quite a party for bacteria. These microscopic creatures can cause skin irritations, intestinal problems, staph infections and even flared-up allergies and asthma.

So I recommend you wash your sheets once a week.

If you have white sheets, I recommend you wash them with bleach, which will kill the germs. If your sheets are not white, use a color-safe bleach or a detergent with a peroxide agent.

If you don’t have a washer at home and use the Laundromat, run the washer for five minutes (with bleach) before adding clothes -- this will sanitize the washer. (Simply disinfecting with a sanitary wipe will not capture all potential pathogens).

While microorganisms should not be feared (many play a good role in maintaining our health), many of the ones in our households can harm us. By taking sensible -- not extreme -- steps, we can give our bodies a much greater level of protection from the harm such pathogens would do us.

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About the Expert

Dr. Philip M. Tierno, Jr.

Dr. Philip M. Tierno, Jr., clinical professor of Microbiology and Pathology at the New York University School of Medicine, is the director of Clinical Microbiology & Immunology at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. He is also an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology at the NYU College of Dentistry and a lecturer at SUNY School of Optometry in New York City.

Help! I'm emailing you right now from a restaurant table, where my first -- and last! -- date with this girl is going really, really bad. (She's in the restroom at the moment.) She seems to be having a good enough time, but I'm in hell. How do I get out of this and still come off smelling like a rose? Oh, jeez -- she's coming back!

Resist the temptation to run like hell while she is in the bathroom.

If you really need to cut the date as short as possible so you don’t stab yourself in the eye with a fork, summon the waiter while she’s in the john. Give him your credit card, ask for a 20 percent tip to be added to the check ASAP (to spare you the back and forth of adding a tip), and explain that you have to leave because of an emergency.

When she gets back, apologize profusely and reveal that you just got a call informing you that your bathtub is overflowing and leaking into your roommates’, neighbors’ and landlord’s spaces. (Of course, you’re making all this up -- only Hugh Hefner’s bathtub would cover this much real estate.) Any variation on such a possible, imminent, but not fatal, disaster is fairly acceptable. If you look agitated enough, she’ll be distressed for you and hopefully help hasten your departure. Thank her for being understanding and let the host know it was nothing about the venue/food -- just a personal “emergency.”

In the future, learn to prescreen better. For blind dates, in particular, trade more photos and engage in at least one reconnaissance phone call. And never trust your mother’s hairdresser’s roofer’s best friend’s cousin to set you up.

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Dr. Belisa Vranich

Dr. Belisa Vranich is a clinical psychologist, author and public speaker specialising in relationships and sex. She is also a member of the Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute and a sexpert at GoodInBed.com.

I trot up lots of stairs every day. What techniques can I use to maximize muscle-building benefits?

With proper technique, you can receive almost the same benefit on stairs as you do performing lunges in the gym. Namely, you’ll improve tone and strength in the glutes, quads and hamstrings -- the three visible leg muscles everyone wants to firm up.

Stair Climbing for Fitness: Rules

Rule No. 1

: Slow down. Your emphasis isn’t on endurance or aerobic capacity, it’s muscle building, so you don’t want to cheat by using momentum to propel yourself upward.

Rule No. 2

: Take the stairs two at a time. If you’re really tall and the motion feels comfortable, take three, even. And no hands on the railing.

Stair Climbing for Fitness: Technique


To start the exercise, place your left foot two stairs higher than the right. Bend your left knee forward so your shin is at nearly a 45-degree angle to the stair. Place all your weight on that left foot, then lift your right leg upward. (Make sure you’re not launching with the back foot because that would create momentum.) Plant the right foot two (or three) stairs up and repeat the exercise, distributing all your weight on it as evenly as possible. Even two or three flights of stairs work great.

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Jay Blahnik
Jay Blahnik was chosen by Shape magazine as one of the world’s top five fitness instructors. The IDEA Health and Fitness Association also named him International Instructor of the Year. He’s a spokesman for Nautilus fitness equipment and the author of Full Body Flexibility.

I want to improve my on-the-job productivity -- but I think I need to organize my work space. How can I better set up my station to accomplish this? Are there any must-haves (in/out baskets, staplers)? Is there a certain way I need to set up my papers?

America’s desks tend to look like dump trucks. Truth is, it doesn’t really take a MacGyver to put all the pieces together to form a cohesive, productive work space.

If you want to increase your productivity, think of your desk as prime real estate. Clear off your entire desktop and rebuild it with only the most essential, frequently used items. Don’t squirrel away unnecessary supplies; store only what you’ll need for the next three to four weeks. Try to use a desk has at least one or two drawers, and store items that you use just once a month away from your workspace -- preferably on a shelf. And for items you use even less frequently than that? Store them in a closet, large container, under your bed or in a bookcase.

As for “in” and “out” baskets, they’re only part of the solution. Find an incline sorter or small desktop file and fill it with your most important files for every project. Create a file for action items, business cards to enter into your database, bills to pay, receipts to file, project ideas, items to read and so forth. Use specific names for files you will use frequently or consider labeling folders with broad category names. Then motivate yourself to maintain the system at the end of the day or once a week. As your needs change (and they will), be smart, review your supplies once or twice a year and clear out useless or duplicate items.

Finally, remember that getting organized is not a one-stop, get-it-all-done-in-one afternoon kind of event. It’s progressive, and you’ll need motivation and self-discipline over the long haul to make it happen.

Essential Supplies of the Productive Office:

  • Stapler
  • Tape dispenser
  • Paper clips (big and small)
  • Sticky notes (large and small)
  • Binder clips
  • Scissors
  • Letter opener
  • Pens, pencils and a highlighter
  • Notepad
  • Mail supplies (stamps, envelopes, notecards)
  • Tissues
  • Trash can (the largest your space can accommodate)

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John Trosko
John Trosko is a Los Angeles-based productivity consultant and owner of the professional organizing firm OrganizingLA. A two-term president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers, he’s also a featured contributor to the book The Experts’ Guide to Doing Things Faster.

I decided not to get a Valentine's Day gift for the girl I've been casually dating, and now she's giving me the cold shoulder. Is she too high-maintenance, or did I mess up? And how do you know when it's appropriate to begin exchanging gifts?

You need to shift perspective on what a gift is. It's a token of appreciation, something that says "I like you" or "I know what you're into.” It doesn't have to be determined by a holiday, nor does it have to be extravagant. A random cupcake can be a gift. Or a cool frame for that picture she loves of her and her dog.

Secondly, the right time to give a gift is when you think of a good one. Go with your gut, bro. No woman ever said, “He's just too thoughtful too soon.”

For Valentine's Day, the size of the gift should be directly proportional to the amount of time you've been dating and the depth of your relationship. If it's a young romance, get something small. If you've got some baggage together, go all out. Most importantly, she wants a gift that makes her say, “He totally gets me.” Random jewelry and gift cards are appreciated, but presents that reflect your interest in what matters most to her will always win her heart.

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Jared Matthew Weiss is a Manhattan-based life stylist (“someone who teaches you how to do what you already know is good for you,” explains Weiss -- more at JaredMatthewWeiss.com) and a contributing editor at Shape magazine. Weiss has appeared on Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style and The Tyra Banks Show.

My shaving cream, bar soap, deodorant and cologne all have different scents. How can I make sure they're working well together?

As Don Corleone would say, “Keep it in the family, and no one will get hurt.”

There are five fragrance “families”: floral, oriental, woody, fougere and fresh. And the best way to make sure your scents aren’t clashing (or competing) is to stick to scents from the same family.

Figure out the smell you like best, whether it’s the pine in your shaving cream or the lemon in your soap, and use that scent to form the base of your grooming scent profile -- everything else should match. Certain smells do work well together, like juniper and sandalwood or cinnamon and orange, but if you don’t have an experienced nose or can’t decode the ingredients on the label, you risk making an olfactory taboo like mixing a musky cologne with a citrusy deodorant (believe me, one whiff of that and you’ll be hopping back into the shower to rinse off).

If you love your cologne, you could also buy the matching products -- many designer colognes now have complementary soaps, deodorants and lotions.

There is, however, a simpler answer, and it involves subtracting from your arsenal of scented lotions and potions. If you buy your creams, soaps and deodorants in a fragrance-free version (often marketed as “for sensitive skin” or “hypo-allergenic”), your cologne -- or scented product of choice -- will shine, and you can switch it up without having to worry about a family feud.

Need another reason to go scent-free-ish? As long as we’re talking about types of “families,” researchers are looking into whether dousing yourself in too much fragrance could harm your family jewels. Seriously: They contain phthalates, which have been linked to certain reproductive disorders. So, at the very least, you might want to avoid adding aroma to your special place till the facts are in.


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Jessica Lothstein
Jessica Lothstein is a former editor at Best Life magazine. She was awarded a Fifi from the Fragrance Foundation for editorial excellence in fragrance coverage.

I watched 21-year-old Teddy Riner win the heavyweight title in the World Judo Championships a few months ago -- his fourth world title -- and I seriously can't get it out of my head. I realize I'm not 2,04m and 128kg like him, but I'd still love to give judo a shot. Any advice for starting out?

The first thing to do is look up the club closest to you. Use the site for the Fédération Française de Judo  -- that way you’ll know the club is affiliated with the federation. Go watch others practice. See if you still have the desire to do it. The desire is the most important thing; it’s all you really need to do judo. Eventually that desire becomes a passion.

Judo has a moral code that encompasses politeness, courage, self-control, and friendship. So it’s important that you’re into all that. Of course, physical attributes will give you a performance that’s more… efficient, you could say. That doesn’t mean you have to be as tall or as heavy as Teddy Riner. The most important physical trait is flexibility. Then there’s speed. The technique comes with practice. Judo is a sport with a very late maturity; we see people get black belts in 15 years or longer. But don’t let that scare you. You can do judo at any age, and it’s never too late to start. If you feel like you can move around on a mat, you can start judo.

The sport itself isn’t very expensive. Our club, for instance, costs 285 euros for the year, September through June, for one hour each week. In terms of equipment, you can buy everything you need at a big sports store, like GO Sport. There’s very little to buy. You really only need a kimono and sandals, and you’re off! 

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For the past 15 years, Jean-Louis Le Prêtre has been president of Paris’ Judo Club Bolivar, where Teddy Riner spent four years under coach Alain Perriot.

I have a lean bone structure. Does this mean my muscles will also be on the small side? Will I never be able to build bulk that competes with big-boned men?

The reality is that people with larger bone structures definitely tend to have an easier time building mass. (However, there are exceptions to the norm: an example is Frank Zane, an excellent bodybuilder who had a fairly small frame.)

First of all, are you sure you're small-boned? It's pretty easy to determine: Grab a flexible tape measure, then wrap it around your wrist and ankle. If you're small-boned, your wrist will be 5-1/2 inches or less and your ankle will be 8 inches or less; medium-boned, your wrist will be 5-1/2 to 6 inches and ankle 8 to 9 inches; large-boned, your wrist will be 6 inches or more and your ankle will be 9 inches or more.

If you've measured and are small-boned, the end of the world has not arrived. One: You've got plenty of company. Two, you've actually got an advantage against bigger-boned dudes -- smaller wrists and ankles make the muscles on your forearms and legs look larger than they actually are.

Plus, you can still bulk up, but you'll need to gear your workouts and meals to gain muscle mass by training with a high volume of multi-joint exercises (squats, power cleans, bench press, etc.) instead of isolation moves (biceps curls, leg extensions, etc.) and downing extra calories. (Depending on your size, you should aim to increase your daily food intake by 700 to 1000 calories from a variety of food groups.) Try German volume training: ten sets of ten reps with the same weight for each exercise, and only one exercise per muscle group, such as bench for chest, shoulder press for shoulders, barbell rows for back, and squats for legs.

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Alexander J. Koch

Alexander J. Koch, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, and an exercise physiologist in the department of Health and Exercise Sciences at Truman State University in Missouri in the U.S. He's also a weightlifting coach and has been a member of USA Weightlifting's Collegiate and Sport Science Committees.

How do I “break up” with a friend?

The phenomenon of wanting to end a friendship, be it with another guy or with a woman, is a universal one. It’s usually a mutual thing, and both parties just naturally grow apart.

But sometimes one becomes aware of it before the other does. Your friend is still trying to stoke the embers while you see where it’s all headed. And that’s the time to put your feelings out there -- in a note.

Although breaking up through a letter can feel like the coward’s way out, it actually allows for you to compose your thoughts without needing to explain things on the spot. It also provides the other individual an opportunity to reflect on what you’ve said, and if need be, to respond thoughtfully. To reinforce the point, you might explain: “I'm writing rather than calling because I want you to have something to read and digest at your leisure.”

From that point, say what you need to say upfront so you’re not building toward something the person doesn’t see coming. You might want to be as straightforward as: “This is hard for me to express, but I think we need to end this friendship, and I want to tell you why.” You can go on to say something along the lines of “This relationship has long been valuable to me, and I’ve learned a lot from it, but when I think about it, our lives have taken us in different directions. I don’t want to give the friendship just a part-time effort, or worse, feel like I need to fake it.”

Overall, you’ll want to explain the situation in language that’s caring but gently honest. You don’t want to prevaricate with the idea that you’re sparing them pain. They’re going to feel pain. But by your being honest, they won’t be grieving even more later, when they realize you haven’t been straight with them.

You might conclude by letting the other party know that if he or she ever wants to talk about the matter face-to-face, you’re available to do so. And if it does come to that, make sure you reiterate your feelings calmly. If you’re hit with a comment such as “This is a horrible thing you’re doing to me,” you might reply that you understand why the person is angry and that you realize anger can take a long time to subside. But reaffirm that you don’t want to make a pledge to restore the friendship when it’s a pledge you know you can’t keep. Offer to contact the person in a month’s time -- not to rekindle the relationship, but out of respect for the friendship you’ve shared.

Painful though this process will be, in the end you’ll be doing the both of you a favor.

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Erik Kolbell
Erik Kolbell is a New York-based psychotherapist and the author of Lifescripts for Family and Friends: What to Say in 101 of Life's Most Troubling and Uncomfortable Situations. His latest book is The God of Second Chances.

I know there are job interview questions that are commonly asked (“Where do you see yourself in five years?”, “What’s your greatest weakness?” and so forth). But how do I ready myself for queries that come way out of left field? I want to be able to score with every answer I give.

In general, “scoring” during an interview depends on more than simply having an answer ready for every question. Interviewers are interested in your attitude and maturity, your work ethic, your professionalism and how well you communicate. Regardless of the job, they’re also evaluating you as a problem solver, a team player and someone who wants to learn and grow.

When you get an unexpected question, the most important thing to do is take a moment to ponder, “What can I say that is authentic and professional?”

In the end, honesty is best. This might include saying that you don’t have an exact answer or even admitting that it’s a challenging question. What doesn’t work is posturing, sugarcoating or pretending you know something you don’t. Gaining the interviewer’s respect will always be more important than having a “perfect” answer.

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Marilee Adams
Marilee Adams, Ph.D., is president of the Inquiry Institute, a firm that coaches individuals and organizations on ways to increase their problem-solving capacity and achieve the results they desire. She is also the author of Change Your Questions, Change Your Life.

I have a unibrow -- two eyebrows that connect in the middle, meeting as one. How do I split the Siamese twins into two self-sufficient brows? And how do I do this without making that area look too obviously manscaped?

I won’t ask how long you’ve been sporting this Cro-Magnon beast (maybe you kept hoping the caveman look would come back some day?), but now that you’ve manned up to the task of taming it, there are a few things you should know.

First, maybe you should think about switching barbers. A good barber should have taken care of this the last time you got a haircut (with a little tact and a lot of skill). But if you want to try and tackle it on your own, we’ll tell you how.

Second, it’s an old wives’ tale that the more often you shave, the thicker the hair will grow back.

That said, take a beard trimmer, switch it to the No. 1 or 2 setting (for a close cut) and run it over your eyebrows to thin out the hair. Then use a razor to remove the hair in the middle. For a guidepost on how much hair to remove, use the inside corner of your eye -- that’s where the brows should start. Next, use a pair of tweezers to remove any other superficial hairs and flyaways, being careful to stay away from plucking the arch of the eyebrow -- that’s when you’ll risk looking too manicured. And believe me, your girlfriend doesn’t want to be seen with a man whose eyebrows look nicer than hers.

If this is starting to sound too complicated, consider heading to a salon esthetician. She can help determine the best shape for your brows (straight or with an arch) based on your face shape and features. But stay away from waxing -- it looks more obviously “manscaped,” and the hair grows back unevenly.

If you’ve read this far and your unibrow is starting to get cold feet, don’t worry: We heard they’re casting extra werewolves for the next Twilight movie.

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Shorty Maniace
Shorty Maniace is head barber extraordinaire and instructor in Manhattan’s West Village.

I use my MP3 player so often that I’m surprised the earbuds haven’t become permanently attached to my ears. Should I worry about hearing loss? How much music can you listen to before you start going deaf?

Yes, you should worry about hearing loss. Everyone should. What matters is how long you listen and at what volume. Loud noises destroy the microscopic hairs in the inner ear that transmit sound to the auditory nerve. The hairs never recover and cannot be repaired, so do your best to avoid loud noises today, tomorrow, forever. Volume is measured in decibels (dB). Normal conversation registers about 60 dB; most restaurants, 70; vacuum cleaners, 80; motorcycles, 90; jack hammers, 100; rock concerts, 100 to 130; and gunshots, 140. Hearing damage begins with exposure to volume over 80 dB, and the longer it lasts, the more damage you suffer. About those earbuds: Don’t listen at a volume greater than about half of what’s possible with your MP3 player (the levels of which vary wildly -- anywhere between 100 dB and 120 dB -- all of which are too loud for auditory health). Another way to tell if you’re over-cranking: In quiet surroundings, hold your earbuds at arm’s length. If you can hear the music from that distance (two to three feet), the volume’s too loud. Anyone exposed to loud noise -- musicians, rock fans, construction workers and motorcycle and gun sports enthusiasts -- should wear ear protection, either foam ear plugs available at drug stores or, ideally, custom-made ear protection.

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Kathy Peck

Kathy Peck, former bass player for the San Francisco female rock trio The Contractions, is now an audiologist. In 1988, her own hearing loss spurred her to found Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers (HEAR). She has won numerous awards from the music industry for her work in hearing protection. For more information about custom ear protection, visit the HearNet Web site.

I’m reuniting with a bunch of old classmates I haven’t seen in a while. Professionally and socially, how do I make the most of this gathering?

Before you get together, send your classmates an update -- and give them a link to your LinkedIn or Facebook page -- so when you meet, you’ll already have points of reference; things to talk about.

In person, you’ll want to have nice enough conversations that you can follow up with a phone call or conversation afterward. If you’re looking for business, keep in mind that the setting is social, so you’re never going to close a deal then or there. Talk too much about work, and you’ll freak them out. There will be time for that later.

Another thing I try to do is find out how I can help other people -- more than how they can help me. It pays off. If I have a friend in their business or know someone who can help them out, I try to be the conduit, the connector.

Getting ahead in your career is 90 to 95 percent networking, and it’s based upon the trust that you build up in your personal relationships.

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Diane Darling is the author of The Networking Survival Guide. She operates Effective Networking Inc., a consulting firm that teaches networking best practices, and her clients include Ernst & Young, Siemens, Cisco Systems and Fidelity Investments.

What’s the deal with ingrown hairs? Why do I get them, and more importantly, how do I get rid of them?

There’s no easy answer as to why you get them. Ingrown hairs are more noticeable in men with really thick hair -- as ingrown hairs are more prevalent in people with thick hair -- or dark hair with light skin. However, there are a couple of key things you can do to heal them and prevent future outbreaks.

First of all, it helps to understand the evolution of an ingrown hair: After hair removal, as the hair starts growing back, the sharp tip of the hair curls back in on itself and digs into the skin, leading to inflammation and irritation. If you do get one, remember this mantra: Put down the tweezers. Plucking ingrown hairs invariably fails and causes additional irritation. Instead, try applying an over-the-counter cortisone cream to help relieve inflammation, then head to a laser dermatologist for laser hair removal (no, not removal of all your hair -- just the problem ones). Realistically, laser’s the only long-term solution for ingrown hairs.

Electrolysis isn’t practical because of the number and thickness of hairs involved. And as for waxing, well, remember the 40-year-old Virgin? Enough said. 

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David J. Goldberg, M.D., is Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Director of Skin Laser & Surgery Specialists of New York/New Jersey

There’s a high probability I’m about to be laid off. Is there anything I can do to maximize my severance package?

There are as many answers to this question as there are individual situations.

First off, let’s back up a second: Unless your company has a severance policy or plan, or you have rights under an employment contract, the company has no legal obligation to provide severance pay. If you are getting severance, keep the following in mind:

If you’re part of a large layoff, your ability to negotiate will be limited, since your employer may fear that it will have to match any extra dollar it gives you to everybody else in the layoff.

Still, whether we’re talking mass layoffs or just you, ask yourself what leverage you have. Do you have a plausible claim for breach of contract or discrimination? Will the company need to call upon your expertise after you have left?

Loyalty and guilt can be sources of leverage too. If possible, approach senior management as opposed to human resources, because the former is more likely to have the authority and discretion to find additional money for you. Remind them of your accomplishments, the sacrifices you’ve made and the outside opportunities you’ve passed up in the name of company loyalty. Of course, do this in a dignified, polite and responsible way: Unless you’re in a very strong negotiating position, putting your finger in someone’s chest (even figuratively) will likely do more harm than good.

In the challenging emotional climate of the moment, avoid the temptation to do anything foolish, like removing electronic files. A year or two from now, you’ll be flourishing at another company, and you’ll want your former co-workers to say: “Look how well Joe is doing. That’s what’s wrong with this company -- we can’t keep classy people like Joe.”

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Mark Risk is an employment lawyer at Mark Risk, PC, in New York City and frequently advises executives on negotiating employment and severance agreements. He’s also an editor for Labor and Employment Law, the quarterly newsletter of the American Bar Association's Labor and Employment Law Section.

My company’s holiday party is coming up. Frankly, I’d rather not go. Do I really need to attend? And if so, is there anything special I need to know before I get there?

If your firm hasn’t canceled the party due to financial woes, you’re one of the lucky ones. And forgive me if I’m wrong, but I imagine you’d like to ensure you’re around to get invited to next year’s event too.

First and foremost, know that this sort of gathering provides a rare opportunity to make an impression on the people who matter. So, making multiple runs to the open bar is probably not the best course of action. You don’t need to abstain entirely (this is a party, after all), but know your limits and stop well short of them.

Staying chemical-free will help you avoid 90 percent of those holiday party self-inflicted career wounds. But just to be safe, follow these cues:

  • Show up And that’s whether you feel like it or not. Be a team player. Arrive on time and act as though you’re genuinely happy to be there.
  • Stay If you’re a middle manager, be certain to remain long enough to be seen by the higher-ups. If you’re a senior manager, stick around for your team to get some quality time with you. No one, though, needs to remain till the bitter end.
  • Be respectful Now is not the time to unload your list of complaints on the muckety-mucks.
  • Keep your pick-up lines in check Hitting on a co-worker is ill-advised unless you’ve both previously expressed some mutual attraction.
  • Say thank you Don’t forget to express your gratitude to the owner for throwing the celebration -- particularly if you work for a small company. This is an easy gesture, but one that many staffers neglect to do.

If all goes according to plan, you’ll leave the party with your dignity, you’ll leave behind a good impression for the higher-ups, and you’ll be able to look forward to a headache-free morning.

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Thomas P. Farley
Nice guy Thomas P. Farley is the creator of the blog What Manners Most, the nightlife correspondent for “Citybuzz” (seen on JetBlue and Continental Airlines flights nationwide) and the host of the Web television show “New York Insider TV.” He is a regular feature writer for Men’s Life Today, and you can follow him @mistermanners and @newyorkinsider.

I just got a pair of nice leather shoes that I love. How can I keep them looking great forever?

Congratulations on your purchase! We’re sure your mom is really proud.

Now, while you can’t keep them looking great forever, you can get at least ten to fifteen solid years out of them if you follow these four simple rules: clean, polish, restore, rotate.

The clean part is easy. A simple horsehair shoe brush will do, and it only takes a minute or two to take off the dirt and dust. If you want to be even more thorough, use an old toothbrush to clean out hard-to-reach places like welting or under the arch.

As for polishing, you’ll want to do it at least once a month (once a week if you live in a rainy climate). The kind of polish to use depends on the kind of finish you want. For a softer leather shoe (like a driving moccasin), you want a softer finish, so stay away from hard waxes and use a cream-based polish instead. For harder leathers (like wingtips and cowboy boots), you want a shinier look, so choose a hard wax in a slightly lighter shade than the shoe. In both cases, start with a layer of cream-based conditioner -- it softens the leather and acts as a primer for the polish. And don’t worry about waterproofing products. If you polish your shoes regularly, you’ll have built up a good coat of wax that acts as a seal.

Next step: wooden shoetrees. Put them in your footwear every time you take them off. Like those “age-defying” face creams your girlfriend slathers on at night, the trees will keep your kicks looking firm and new -- and most importantly, wrinkle-free. See, every time you take off your shoes (even if you’ve only worn them for half an hour), the toe will have curled up and formed a crease in the front. Trees elongate the leather and bring the shoes back to their original shape.

Now for the most important part: rotation, rotation, rotation. You never want to wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row -- they'll wear out that much faster. Ideally, you should really keep them out of rotation for at least two days: the longer they sit with shoe trees in them, the longer they’ll keep their original shape.  

One more thing: sole protectors (available at any shoe repair shop for around $30). These thin sheets of rubber cover half the sole (the part that gets the most wear and tear), preventing the original rubber from wearing out. After all, you’ve invested so much time and energy in the tops of your shoes, it would be a shame if they bottomed out.

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Raul Ojeda

Raul Ojeda is the manager of Willie’s Shoe Service in Los Angeles. Willie’s has served Hollywood’s tired soles for more than 50 years and has made custom kicks for everyone from Charlton Heston and Fred Astaire, to Johnny Depp and Jesse Jackson.

My company just gave me a cell phone -- and I’m not happy about it. I don’t want to be expected to check email and be accessible by phone at all hours of the night, on weekends and vacations. How do I set limits or at least find out what kind of limits I’ll be able to set?

When your boss hands you a cell phone, it feels kind of like an electronic leash.

Many of the problems people have with company cell phones or BlackBerrys are self-imposed. Once they get one, they feel compelled to keep checking it for messages or emails. I coach one corporate client who comes home and locks his cell phone in his car. He checks it once before he goes to sleep. You don’t have to do something that extreme, but you get the point.

You can’t be expected to be able to answer the phone in every circumstance, unless you’re at a job that specifically pays you to be on-call -- like a doctor. If you’ve got a normal manager and not someone who’s an obsessive workaholic with no sense of boundaries, negotiate the terms. Present a plan on how often and when you’ll be available. Say, “If there are times when you’re especially going to want to get in touch with me, let me know, and I’ll keep the phone on.”

And if you do have an obsessive workaholic boss with no sense of boundaries, start polishing up your resume. You’ve got bigger problems than the cell phone.

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Marie G. McIntyre, Ph.D.

Marie G. McIntyre, who holds a doctorate in counseling and organizational development, is an employment coach and author of the book Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.

What are some up-and-coming industries these days on the job front? I’m rethinking my career plans, and I want one that helps put me ahead of the curve. What should I be prepping for?

Information technology (IT) continues to be hot. Specifically, take a look at computer forensics (the forensic science focused on extracting legal evidence from computers and digital storage media), which is increasingly important due to concerns about computer security. Some reputable online courses offer studies in the field, and some colleges offer courses on the subject -- but to be competitive, you need to have majored in it in college. Computer networking specialists and network administrators will also be in demand, and this job can’t be outsourced to other parts of the world. Either a certificate from a technical training program or a bachelor’s degree in the field can open doors. 

Another promising area is education. With an increasing awareness of the importance of men as role models, primary and secondary teaching jobs for men will be widely available. Private schools set their own standards for the qualifications of potential teachers, but for public schools, you usually need to earn a master’s degree in education to get certified.

Finally, there are hot new vocational jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s, mostly in green technology -- like a solar panel installer. These are especially fitting for those who already have experience in the electrical and construction fields.

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Gail Golden, Ph.D., is the principal of Gail Golden Consulting LLC and a career coach for the GoSavant Web site. As a psychologist and consultant for over 20 years, she has developed deep expertise in helping businesses build better leaders.

I’m trying to stay in shape by participating in cardio activities (running and cycling). The problem is, afterward, not only do I want to eat more, I want to eat stuff that’s bad for me (usually food filled with fat or sugar). This seems counterproductive. How can I avoid this syndrome?

Unfortunately, when it comes to craving fat and bad carbs, there’s no research showing that humans crave any foods in particular (unless you’re pregnant -- which you aren’t). It’s most likely that you just happen to have a powerful sweet (or fat) tooth.

Still, you do need to eat some good carbs, like nuts or whole grains, after a workout to refill stores of glycogen -- the fuel stored in your muscles that powers your workout. You also need some protein, which your body uses to repair muscles after strenuous exercise. Research shows that protein also helps restock your glycogen. (For best results, you should eat within a half-hour to an hour after working out.)

That said, a great snack that fits the bill is a turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread with a slice of low-fat cheese.

Meanwhile, fruit is a great source of carbohydrates and may help to satisfy your sweet tooth naturally. Have it with some creamy yogurt to get some protein.

Finally, if you’re craving fatty foods, try half a whole-grain bagel with some peanut butter. The nutty spread provides some protein and heart-healthy fats that won’t undo all the hard cardio work you just did.

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Nicci Micco
Nicci Micco is the deputy editor of nutrition for EatingWell Media Group. She holds a Master of Science in food and nutrition sciences.

I’ve been invited to a Halloween costume party that will be babe central. I don’t want to dress up as some lame monster -- I want to look cool. What kind of costumes really attract women?

It’s always easy to look hot in a costume as long as you have the confidence to own the character you’re projecting.

I’ve worked on films where the actors wore ridiculous outfits but buried themselves so deep into their role, they not only pulled it off, but looked sexy as hell doing it. Confidence is seductive, no matter how you dress it up. If you have a presence and you believe in yourself, it will be hot … even if you’re dressed as an Eskimo.

At the moment, nothing is hotter than the undead. From True Blood to Twilight, vampires are getting women’s blood rushing all over the country -- and it can be a very cool look for a guy. It’s just the right combination of scary and sexy. Just get a nice tailored pair of black pants -- leather would be especially scandalous. Put on a white button-front shirt of very sheer or luxurious cotton fabrics with collars, worn open and tucked into the pants. Add an interesting, exotic and expensive-looking necklace (from a thrift store) that looks real enough to be 50 Cent-worthy. Slick back your hair to look particularly refined, and add a cape or a long jacket to embellish the look of exotic opulence.

Now that you’ve gone all Stephen Moyer with your threads, it’s time to add a dash of horror with a little makeup and some spooky accoutrements. Pick up a pair of fangs from any costume store. (Just make sure they’re the kind that make you look edible to women and not like Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor.) Then buy a little fake blood from any costume store and drip it from the corners of your eyes or mouth to let people know you mean business. Put a little eyeliner around your eyes and some dark eye shadow below them, and you’ll bore holes through all the beauties in the room. Then make your face pale with some light powder makeup, and you’ll be the hottest dead dude at the party.

Congratulations! You’re frighteningly irresistible! You won’t need a stake to pierce anyone’s heart; just make sure to get home before the sun comes up.

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Eden Coblenz
Eden Coblenz has been a costume supervisor for major feature films for more than 20 years. Her work has appeared in There Will Be Blood, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the upcoming Ben Stiller film Greenberg.

Is there some kind of a rule book on sideburns? I’m thinking of really growing mine out, but I’m wondering how low they should go, how wide, how short the hair, etc. How can I be sure they’re helping me look my best?

The general rule is that the thickness and length of your sideburns need to be consistent with the rest of your hair. So if your hair is very short, don't grow your sideburns thick and long (and vice versa). I think the length should not exceed the midpoint of your ear, but that said, sideburns can look really great short or long depending on your hair and features. Just like a haircut, it’s all about maintaining balance and offsetting lines and shapes.

Longer sideburns can help balance a face with a long chin, and shorter sideburns can balance a short or weak chin. Oval faces look best with medium-length sideburns (they should end at the cartilage in the middle of your ear); square faces look good with longer sideburns (down to the bottom of your ear); and if your face is round, the only rule is don’t go too short (they will only make your face look rounder).

Finally, if you don’t know what mutton chops are, you probably shouldn’t be experimenting with them.

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Eddie “Champ” Hall is owner of and instructor at Champ’s Barber School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He has 25 years of experience and sports a mean five o’clock shadow.

I just landed a new job. How can I make my work space look professional, like it belongs to someone who’s worthy of climbing the ladder?

The easiest strategy is to look at how the movers and shakers have set up their offices. If the person you report to has a neat desk with everything put away each night, follow that model. If he has contemporary decor, mimic that feel with things like stainless-steel accessories or a modern poster. It’s OK if your desk looks different from everyone else’s at your level. Just make sure it resembles the desk of your boss -- he’s your gatekeeper.

The goal is for you to emulate the people who are in the positions you want to attain. That means no troll dolls and no Megan Fox pinups. Nor should you display photos from your last vacation: These send the message that you’d rather be on holiday than at work.

For men, a picture of your family makes you look responsible. (I advise women not to display pictures of their family, because it makes them appear as though they’d rather be with their spouse and children.)

For some people, being an individual is their No. 1 priority. If that’s more important to you than getting a promotion, go for it, but understand what you might be sacrificing. At what point can you stop emulating? Not until you’ve emulated all the way to the top.

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About the Expert

Cynthia Shapiro is a career coach and author based in Woodland Hills, California. Her client list includes employees, management teams and executives ranging from small start-ups to the corporations of the Fortune 100.

I want to run faster to improve my sports performance, but some of my friends say you're born with a maximum running speed. Is that true, and if not, what can I do to get quicker?

Sprinters are made, not born. All athletes can get faster. Speed is nothing more than a product of power and neuromuscular technique, which most of us recognize as “technique.”

Squats and power cleans will help build that explosive power you need for optimal sports performance. Jumping exercises -- single, double and alternate legs -- are also important. These plyometrics will wake up your nervous system. And of course, you should get out and start running but not necessarily in circles. I recommend sprinting up short, steep hills or while pulling a tire: tie it around your waist with a rope so the tire drags behind you, then do three sprints of 20 yards. Rest two minutes between each set. (You’ll need it!) Gradually increase the length and number of your “resisted” intervals, and see how fast you start burning down the court or the base paths as a result.

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About the Expert

Loren Seagrave
Loren Seagrave, founder of Velocity Sports Performance, has coached more than 50 Olympic and World Championship medalists.

I want to make sure I'm operating at optimum physical performance. Can my doctor help me get there? If so, what kinds of tests should I ask him to perform to make sure my body is perfectly "calibrated?"

Yes, your doctor can definitely help you get there during your annual physical --occasionally through tests but mostly by working to create a regimen that keeps your body finely tuned.

It's rare for men in their twenties to have the kind of medical maladies that are diagnosed with blood work. The two most common reasons they're not reaching optimal physical performance are: 1) They're not sleeping well; 2) They're training improperly.

If you're like the typical guy your age, you might be staying up really late one night, sleeping late one or two mornings each week and never getting into a consistent sleep cycle. And you're probably not coming close to an average of eight hours of sleep a night, which is ideal.

As for improper training, when you become so dedicated to reaching your peak (when training for a competition or race, or working out on your own), it's easy to overtrain and suffer from muscle fatigue. Taking rest days and cross-training may help, but every case is unique, so you're better off working through a proper schedule one-on-one with a trainer or your physician.

If you’re sure your sleep habits and workout regimen aren't holding you back, the next likely (but uncommon) culprit could be asthma. Conditions like an underactive thyroid or low iron levels (anemia) are also possible but very rare.

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Dr. Blake Fagan
Expert Dr. Blake Fagan is a family medicine physician, competitive runner, avid mountain biker and assistant professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

My buddy is getting married at the end of the month. I'm the best man, so I have to throw the bachelor party. Thing is, we're not really the type of men who go for typical bachelor party debauchery. What are some modern -- and still fun -- alternatives?

Fear not: You can avoid the kind of de-bachelor-ey party you may regret the next morning (or maybe longer) and still have more fun than flooring the gas pedal in a golf cart.

Try fly-fishing or salmon fishing at a place like the Ausable Wulff River in the Adirondacks. Don’t own chest-high waders? No worries, most fishing spots offer lake and salmon fishing too. And while you’re there, pick a cool camping ground nearby where your buddies can stay in either tents or cabins -- and of course, build a really big bonfire.

Too low-adrenaline for you? Consider formula car racing at a racing school. The pictures you’ll get of the gang in full-length zip-up racing suits will be well worth it (photos you can actually show your girlfriend!).

Bottom line, think outside the box: Don’t pshaw something like a dude ranch. And if you want to go simple and stay local, there’s always a guys-only barbecue bash with all the fixin’s.

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About the Expert

Dr. Belisa Vranich

Dr. Belisa Vranich is a clinical psychologist, author and public speaker specialising in relationships and sex. She is also a member of the Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute and a sexpert at GoodInBed.com.

Does how your skin looks reflect what you eat? If so, how will I know if a certain food will be good or bad for my skin?

When your mom said, “Don’t eat greasy junk food; it’ll give you bad skin,” she wasn’t quite right … or wrong, either.

There’s no evidence that certain foods give you blemishes or even cause acne, but there’s no question that diet affects overall skin health. Skin is actually the largest bodily organ, and eating a balanced, nutritional diet has a positive effect on cell regeneration and healing.

Pimples from acne and other skin irritations are caused when pores and hair follicles are blocked with excess oils (sebum) and keratin (a protein that gives skin strength and flexibility) and then become irritated. The oils your body produces have no connection to oils in foods -- though if you wipe greasy hands on your face, it could contribute to blocked pores.

Men in particular can have problems with pimples and irritation because of the large number of hair follicles that make up the beard.

I recommend eating a balanced diet with lots of vitamin A (good sources are apricots, leafy vegetables, liver and eggs), C (found in oranges, lemons and broccoli) and E (potent in nuts, spinach and broccoli). These vitamins contain powerful antioxidants that help repair skin damage.

In particular, vitamin D has been shown to help prevent premature aging and other damage to skin cell structure. Exposure to sunlight helps skin produce vitamin D naturally, and cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, halibut and trout are all excellent dietary sources of the nutrient.

So in a way, mom was right. It’s not that junk food itself makes your skin bad, but eating it won’t help you achieve a balanced diet that promotes good skin health.

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About the Expert

Dr. Todd Holmes is a board-certified dermatologist at Fletcher Allen Health Care and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.

Is it possible to protect myself from the sun this summer while still keeping my acne under control?

Sunscreens are hardly the only cause of acne in the hot months (breakouts are caused by bacteria, which are more prevalent in the summer), but lots of suntan lotions aggravate acne because they’re oily. But that doesn’t mean you should skip the sunscreen -- or that you need to settle for pimply UV protection.

There are other options for keeping skin clear and safe from the sun’s harmful rays this summer, such as facial cleansers that include a mild sunscreen. They’re not great for more than thirty minutes in the sun but work for everyday exposure.

Or you can also wash your face with an acne-preventing cleanser and follow that with a regular sunscreen -- and no, it doesn’t have to be a special one for faces. If normal sunscreens do tend to break you out, look for one with zinc oxide, for sensitive skin.

Whatever brand or type you use, don’t forget to wash your face before you go to bed -- you don’t want the sunscreen on your face overnight, since that could really aggravate  your condition.

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About the Expert

Dr. Leslie Baumann is a spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology. She is a professor of dermatology at the University of Miami, where they know a thing or two about sun exposure.
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